I think I've written about this before, but five years ago today, I spent 8 hours huddled in my hallway on a futon, listening to pine trees crashing all around me. I thought it was transformers blowing, so I didn't realize I was in danger. The cats were completely unfazed: they lounged on the bed and looked at me, there on the floor in the middle of the house, like I had lost my mind. I woke to the storm around 8 am, the power went out around 9, and it raged until 4:30 or 5:00. I walked out, wondering if it was the eye passing and we had another 8 hours, or if it was over. The storm was over, but it was only the beginning. I didn't see the devastation in New Orleans on TV until four days later. Power was out for almost three weeks, water was out for 4 or 5 days, and it was at least three days before the roads were cleared so I could drive off my block. Luckily the Poet, who I was dating at the time, was in the National Guard and came to stay with me two days after the storm. He'd go down to Camp Shelby to work overnight, then come back in the morning with a vegetarian MRE for me. I don't know what I would've eaten otherwise, except for crackers and peanut butter, because the free meals at churches and community centers were all full of meat.
I grew up in New Orleans, and among other storm preparations, we always filled the tubs with water, and put an axe in the attic, just at the top of the ladder. I don't have an axe, and I'm not below sea level here, but I did fill the tub with water. For the first time in my entire life, that turned out to be a good idea: I didn't have to drink it (luckily) but being able to flush one's toilet can not be too overrated. It was also the first storm in my life where an axe in someone's attic in the suburbs of NOLA saved their lives.
A few months after the storm, when the NY Times was doing features on people who died in the storm, my dad's long-time (former) secretary Gloria was featured. She drowned in her attic in Central City. She was one of way too many. I don't even think my dad could go to her funeral; he couldn't return home for several months and there was no way for him to get in touch with her people.