I was undecided about writing this article.
One part of me didn’t want to recall some of the unpleasant moments associated with our recent encounter with Hurricane Barry. But on the other hand, the writer and observer within were compelling me to describe my impressions of the storm while the details were still vivid.
The latter rationale prevailed.
I’ve always been in awe of nature’s power. I’ve experienced an earthquake, a Saharan sandstorm and even a volcanic eruption in Guatemala. A tropical cyclone, though, is truly something to behold. The combination of wind, rain and the endless shrieking it all produces makes me feel puny, insignificant and, more often than not, totally mesmerized.
Like many others, we watched as the forecasters continuously confirmed that Barry would come ashore at or near Vermilion Bay. My better half and I stayed tuned to the local TV stations. We didn’t dare turn away, afraid we’d miss some crucial detail about its path. In the last three days before the storm’s landfall, our world constricted and revolved exclusively around the expected bad weather and our preparations for it.
Despite the meteorologists’ assurances, however, that Barry would not develop into “a major event,” we remained wary. After all, a beast is still a beast even though it might have a diminished bite.
As the hurricane approached, it came in mockingly. The day actually began calmly with an occasional patch of blue behind the scurrying clouds. But Barry was skilled in stealth and its only purpose was mischief. The sky darkened and turned into a sickly gray-colored mess while the wind picked up. The creature was laughing.
L. and I decided to stay on our back porch and watch the show. She had a Dr. Pepper while I enjoyed something more potent. Outside, the performance was underway. We had front row seats and had no intention of giving them up. Strong gusts now joined the commotion, each one sending malicious emails throughout south Louisiana that more mayhem was on the way.
That Friday night we slept fitfully while the devil danced above us. His evil jig was actually the discordant clatter created by countless broken limbs and branches striking the metal roof.
The next day nature’s melodrama intensified but with the additional torture of a seemingly endless deluge. Driven by the wind, the rain at times seemed to fly horizontally defying every physical law. It became an army of stinging pellets seeking less hardy targets — bushes, trees or flowers — in order to inflict harm. The exhausted vegetation sagged under the weight of the downpour. Our yard became a reservoir.
After another sleepless night I sat on the back steps for most of that Sunday. An old oak tree next door groaned as Barry’s wind mercilessly twisted its arthritic limbs. But I noticed that the tempest was now beginning to lose some of its punch.
Then a momentous image appeared.
As the wind and rain subsided later that day, my neighbor came out and started picking up the debris left by the storm’s tantrum. He worked slowly but purposefully. And his example prompted me to do the same on our side.
Barry had gone from menace to memory.
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.