Thursday, August 25, 2011


In 2006 I moved, returning to my home state of Maryland after spending 36 years in New Jersey, Florida, California, Virginia, Puerto Rico and Louisiana.  If you guessed ex-Navy  I repatriated to Maryland for two reasons:  family and New Orleans' weather.  For six months out of every year, I was a nervous wreck, watching weather forecasts over my shoulder from June through the first of December.

I'd been relatively lucky, and experienced just two partial house floodings that weren't related to hurricanes.  Both were related to excessive rainfall.  I'd lived in that house for years with no problems, but a combination of poor landscaping, fencing and a neighbor who installed an inground pool sounded the death knell.  After the first flooding, I put in new carpeting and decided to purchase flood insurance.  If you're familiar with flood insurance, you'll know that there is a 30 day period before the policy takes effect.  So, about 22 days after I purchased it, we had 21 inches of rain in 24 hours.  My kids still laugh at my futile attenpt to help the yard drain.....pushing water out of the gate with a broom.  I also knelt on the kitchen floor and cried, praying that the inevitable wouldn't happen.  God probably had too many other people to listen to that night.

Ever since then, my nerve endings would fire up whenever I heard anything approaching torrential rain.  I kept a list of things to pile into the car after having to evacuate twice in the path of hurricanes that missed us:  family photo albums, silver flatware and jewelry(looters), two dogs and a cat.  As August of 2005 came around with its stank heat and humidity, I watched the usual reports of yet another storm forming with an uncertain destination.  As the storm grew in size and intensity, heading toward the bullseye of New Orleans in the form of Hurricane Katrina, I joined the caravan of evacuees and headed toward Natchez, Mississippi to one of the few hotels that allowed animals.  Due to the scarcity of rooms, we were only able to secure a room with two twin beds.  You can only imagine being in that room for four days with the following:  me, my daughter, her then-husband, a 7 year old, 5 year old, 1 year old, two black labs, two cats, a Siberian Husky and a Malamute. 

When my daughter announced she would rather kill herself than stay another night, an old boyfriend of hers invited us to stay with him in Nashville, Tennessee.  I'm inclined to nominate him for sainthood as we stayed there for nearly two weeks before the authorities in Louisiana would allow us to return.   

As anxious as I was to return home, nothing could have prepared me for what I found.  Just a mile from my house, I asked my daughter where we were.  The devastation as we drew closer was unimaginable.  My own home fared far better than most to the south and east of me.  As I opened the front door, the smell of the refrigerator-freezer was stunning.  We bungied it up and hauled the entire unit to the curb.  There was no savlation for that appliance.  There was black mold piled several inches atop my favorite oriental carpet in the family room and forming on the baseboards.  We pulled up the carpeting and padding to join the refrigerator.  I'd had a new roof put on the house the month before (darn it!) which held up well, but lost several sections of the 6 foot privacy fence.  A possum had taken up residence in the garage.

Adding insult to injury, my insurance company denied my flood claim, but having worked in insurance previously, I knew they were wrong.  I argued policy wording with them for nearly two months before I wrote to the White House.  Within a week, the regional superintendant of FEMA came out to the house and decided that my insurance representative must be smoking crack.....of course, it was a covered loss.

So, I finally had the repairs completed, sold the house and moved back home.  Now, I sit at my laptop writing this blog while I keep checking the weather reports for the projected paths of Hurricane Irene.  I've raided my bathroom cabinet for sleep aids and leftover painkillers to suppress the anxiety which swells with each passing hour.  If I didn't have to babysit this weekend, I'd be cozying up to multiple bottles of rum on Sunday.  As far as I'm concerned, Katrina and Irene are both nasty bitches.  I hope God hears me this time.

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