Friday, September 03, 2021

Ida and Delta: Not a Love Story

 Melinda Palacio

Ida and Delta, two odd bedfellows wreaked havoc in a beloved city. Earlier, before hurricane Ida was on track to make landfall in New Orleans, Covid and the Delta Variant had kept us away from returning to New Orleans. Although people think we’re crazy, my husband, a South Louisiana native, and I often crave to New Orleans where we have a second home during the summer months of the year. It’s usually fun, especially now that I’m more or less acclimated to mosquito bites. I used to get giant, itchy welts all over my body, now I can ignore the bites and keep from scratching them and letting the poison take over my mind and body. August brings midsummer mardi gras, less tourists, and the restaurants offer special deals with their Coolinary festivities (any reason, extremely hot weather, is a reason to celebrate in New Orleans). However, Covid continued to put a crimp on our plans. In Santa Barbara, the numbers didn’t look good, but unlike Louisiana, there were hospital beds available for emergencies and you could get a doctor’s appointment for an urgent medical issue. 

Sixteen years ago, when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the world saw a flooded city due to faulty levees. Another hurricane of that magnitude shouldn’t have blown through the city less than two decades later. Global warming and climate change means that catastrophic weather events occur more often than not. 

Friends who stayed for Ida say it was worse than Katrina, luckily the levees held. They describe the hurricane wind like a freight train blowing through the city. I know such noise would spell doom to me. I can’t sleep during thunder and lightning, a regular occurrence in South Louisiana. The city was lucky that the levees kept all the water from Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi river from flooding the city. What didn’t hold was the transmission tower that supplies electricity to all of New Orleans and some of the adjacent parish. An entire tower fell into the Mississippi. No power means no air conditioning, food in your fridge and freezer will rot, no hot showers, no light or electricity to charge all the devices we’ve become glued to.  

A hurricane, and especially its aftermath, makes you appreciate all that you have, especially the people in your life. I’m especially grateful that our friend Karen, who is a beacon of fun, kindness, and resourcefulness, was able to offer photographs and answers. It’s nerve wracking to evacuate or watch a disaster unfold when your miles away.  Karen stayed behind with her dogs, cats, and bees to weather the storm. Even though one of her own bees stung her and her arm swelled, she still was able to carry on and survive a hurricane. Having spent a day without power in New Orleans during a regular storm, I have much respect for folks who are willing to spend days, if not weeks, waiting for power to return after a hurricane. Shortly, after Ida blew through the city, Karen was able to assess the damage on my house and help get repairs started. Hurricanes and the pandemic have also brought out the best in people. I’ve met more of my neighbors during the lockdown than in the years before Covid. Overall, my faith in humanity is restored even though there are rotten apples walking this earth. If you are reading this, please take a moment to practice a random act of kindness; it can be as simple as smiling to a stranger. 

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