Saturday, October 01, 2005

My friends Carol and Richard Henderson were visiting his parents in DeRidder, Louisiana, and experienced Hurricane Rita. I thought you might enjoy her account.

To those of you who knew where Richard and I were headed last weekend,Thank you for your prayers. They were answered in a mighty way in myopinion for the family in Louisiana. We left on Thursday to go to thefarm to celebrate "Grandpas's" birthday. Richard's Dad was 91 that veryday. I had been watching the weather news and inquired of my husband ifwe had not better rethink the timing on this trip. He said, "Thehurricane is going to Houston, not De Ridder. Who are you going tobelieve, me or your own lying eyes?Okay, I confess, he did not say that. What he said verbatim is: "WellI'm going. You can do what you want." I took this to mean he feltconfident about the weather, so I did not back out. We landed in BatonRouge and immediately set out in our rented Camry for the farm, threehours away, under cloudy skies but no rain. All was well throughOpelousas. In Eunice, we planned to stop as we always did. We were goingto eat supper and go to the grocery. There seemed to be something goingon, maybe a football jamboree or a massive wreck as both lines of trafficgoing west were going at a snail's pace or stopped altogether. Wendy'swas closed, so we dined at Sonic. At the grocery a cop told us that thecars were evacuees from Lake Charles and that the store was closing infifteen minutes. We tried to call the farm to see if they neededanything, but all the circuits were tied up. So we bought ingredients forthe gumbo I planned to fix. There was no water or bread on the shelf.There was no catfish for the gumbo, so I planned to get some on Friday inDe Ridder. As we drove through town, I began to see that the line of carswas endless, probably extending 70 miles back to Lake Charles or maybe300 mules back to Houston. We were going in the opposite direction. Ibegan to have definite feelings of unease about now. Richard did the oldshortcut maneuver and changed our regular route. We hurried through thenight past lots of countryside, rice fields and the Baptist encampment atDry Creek. There was a traffic jam at the four way stop sign atSugartown. sually we are the only vehicle on the road there. We sped onto the farm. There we learned that all the schools had not met Thursdayand Walmart had closed at noon. KL was in Leesville buying a few lastminute things. Friday morning, Richard and I went in town to find allgroceries and gas stations closing. We bought a few paper goods at a tinyconvenience store that seemed to feature hairpieces as its main stock. Wewent home. I began to fix the gumbo and Richard nailed boards over thesouth facing windows. KL's friend, Keturah and her three boys came overto stay with us, as their house is town is frailer. Also they werelocated across the street from a local school where 1000 evacuees werebeing sent. The people were not the strict law and order kind. Oneoffered to buy Ket a beer if she would drive him to Leesville.(BeauregardParish is dry.) when she refused, he offered a lewd remark. These guyswere into drinking beer and smoking pot. There were eleven of us at the farm, Grandpa, Grandma, Richard and I, Harry and Noah, KL and the fourMillers. We finished the day by taking our last baths for a while andfilling the tubs with water. Later, Grandpa read the twenty seventh Psalmand we had prayer. Then we hunkered down in front of the TV, mesmerizedby the weather reports. The basic word was now that a hurricane washeaded for Lake Charles, moving very slowly, that we should get the eyein De Ridder about four the next afternoon. Winds began coming about ninethirty. At ten thirty, the electricity went out. We all retired to bed;to bed, but not to sleep. Bands or waves of wind came through along withthe ominous sound of roof parts clattering. At some point Richard wentout into the storm to pick up some of them. We gathered vessels to holdthe water that was leaking out of one of the tubs. About three in themorning, Richard and I moved downstairs with our mattress and oursuitcases, in case the roof should be attacked by a falling tree. Aroundeight or nine Harry said that the eye was passing, that Boni saw this onher T.V. in Sylva,NC. And that the storm was breaking up. I had beenpraying all night for protection, and for strength to deal with theaftermath, as well as for God to blow a breath of cold air in the windsand temper the fury at the storm. The winds died down about ten thirtySat. morning and we waited for the second part of the hurricane. It nevercame. It was over. We had phone service for a day until a tree must havefallen in a bad spot. Assessing the damage, we discovered that it is nottoo bad for such winds. The side of the barn is torn off, along withroofing on some of the out buildings, and part of the house. Not one treewas uprooted, though there were a lot of branches down. We had water allaround in containers and a hand pump at the well, since electricity runsthe water inside. There was a gas camp stove to cook on, and the biggesthelp, a small generator that Harry had. With this, Richard could hook uphis Mom's chair, the refrig., the micro, the water, the TV, fans, thoughnot all at the same time. Neighbors came over to get water and to reporton their situations. There were trees uprooted and garages flattened.There were 39 folks at the church with Brother and Mrs. Ott presiding, atree blocking them in and no water or electricity. The refugees numberedin age from 7 months to 92 years old. There were 41 people at MargeryEllen's house including her daughter Kathy who had been shot at afterKatrina when she was on the roof of University Hospital in NO. The menwere pressed into duty to haul water from the pond for flushing. Harrywanted to know if they delivered. One neighbor came over to report thatshe was hysterically praying on her knees during the storm until her aunthad enough of the drama and gave her valium to calm her down. Aunt O andJim at the nursing home had been sent on to a safer place. De Ridder andthe surrounding area homes were hit but not like Lake Charles. We onlyhad 7 inches of rain, no storm surge. De Ridder is located about 50 milesnorth of Lake Charles, the closest large town. Beaumont is about 90miles west I think. When we left on Monday, the main road was clear allthe way to Lafayette. There was no electricity anywhere until Lafayettewhere all was well. Gas prices there were $2.55 at Walmart. There was asmooth trip home. Richard's Mom, who has been know to get excited aboutstorms in the past rode this one out in high style. She slept better thanin months she said, and her leg swelling went down dramatically. Maybethe inky night and quiet lulled her to sleep, except that it was not atall quiet with the wind tossing around roof parts and branches. They gotthe phone back and we are looking into getting them a larger generatorsince LA seems to be sold out at the moment. Love, Carol

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