Anxiety was the rope that fastened us to The Weather Channel and other forecasters.
Almost two months ago, after the meteorologists confirmed that Hurricane Delta would likely strengthen and make landfall in south Louisiana, L. and I remained glued to the different stations awaiting every update. We watched with concern as the track kept shifting westward. Every movement towards us was a reminder of that other beast, Laura, and what it had recently done to Cameron and Lake Charles.
About three days before Delta hit, the storm moved even more toward the central and western parishes. Seeing its unpredictability in both direction and strength as well as the fact that our house was almost surrounded by older trees, I decided that it was in our best interest to evacuate.
But where to go?
I wanted a location away from the hurricane’s strongest winds yet close enough to return home within a couple of hours in order to assess what kind of malicious calling card Delta might leave us and immediately start cleaning up...or making repairs.
We chose Thibodaux.
After some calls and some quick packing we hit the road after first topping off our SUV’s gas tank.
Our motel was an attractive lodging that appeared to have recently been refurbished. To my surprise I saw that it was almost completely occupied. After unpacking and, of course, setting the TV to one of the local stations, I walked around the place. Some kids played ball near the pool and an elderly couple sat nearby on a bench.
Everything was calm but I felt a certain uneasiness within me. L. and I were in a place we didn’t want to be, but had to for our safety. However, my thoughts kept returning to our home and how well it would bear up to Delta.
The couple in the room next to ours occasionally came out to smoke. They looked edgy and exhausted. After a while we introduced ourselves and got into a revealing conversation.
Brad and Elma were from Jennings. He explained that during Laura much of his roof had been ripped off by the wind. He was still in the process of making repairs when Hurricane Delta’s approach forced them to flee.
“Right now we feel lost.” Brad confessed. “We only have half a house and we don’t know what we’ll find when we return. But whatever happens...it’s where we want to stay.”
Although stressed out, I felt that they both possessed a deep reservoir of both courage and perseverance. Their spirits, although subdued, were far from shattered.
Brad continued, “We won’t abandon our home. We fixed it once and if necessary...we’ll do it again.” Elma put her arm around her husband’s waist.
The storm passed and we went our separate ways. After arriving home there was a broken limb leaning against our house but no damage to the dwelling. The next day a chain saw easily took care of it.
I thought of Brad and Elma and hoped that if they had any hurricane problems they’d be very minor ones.
O.J. GONZALEZ is a native and resident of Jeanerette. He graduated from USL in printmaking and photography and his photographs have appeared in publications in Louisiana, Alaska, Canada, New Zealand and England.