Saturday, September 8, 2007

Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina, Part 1

Hurricane Katrina taught me that during a severe prolonged crisis, being more prepared, or even just knowing a little more than those around you, can prove to be a serious downfall.

Because I was trapped among strangers, I did my best NOT to reveal all my assets. As time wore on, and conditions deteriorated to the point that basic needs for survival was being sorely tested, my high level of preparedness was getting more difficult to hide. People were being killed for less than what I had. (Heard about the man who shot his sister in the head over a bag of ice?) The inside of my vehicle was like a rolling Walmart, for all the goodies it contained: a boatload of bottled water, lots of food, general meds, a propane cooker and a ton of propane, a gazillion batteries, oil lamp & plenty of oil, kerosene lanterns and plenty of kerosene. Candles, matches, lighters, water, more water, bleach, baking get the idea. My van was just packed. If I got into a wreck, it would have been quite spectacular... I've always tended to overdo, overprep...

After a week of extreme circumstances among strangers, this was nearly impossible to hide. I tried my best, but hey, I had to survive too. Even to the very end, those around me never knew exactly how much stuff I really had. If someone else was in dire need, I helped as much as I could, but as discreetly as possible which was not easy.

It seemed like whenever every new serious crisis or emergency popped up, I had the knowledge to "fix it", or pulled a magic bunny out of my "hat" (van)... For goodness sake, one old woman had run out of her heart meds, including her diuretic Rx...she was starting to swell up...and in this heat with no water...Well, I had durned parsley and celery (of all things) in my van...I made teas with these natural diuretics, and gave them to her, along with enough fresh clean water to do some good. Celery and parsley? Yeah that, and dehydrated onions, garlic and bell pepper, too. No self-respecting Cajun cook will be caught (not even in a hurricane) without them...LOL

Long story short: I ended up being informed that they would not let me go, they said they "needed" me too much. Most of them were originally from "up north", new to the area, and knew little about hurricanes and absolutely nothing about the business of survival.

I had a full tank of gas, but even that would NOT be enough to get me to the next working gas station before the last drop of gas was used up. The no-gasoline thing was a very serious problem where I was...a few people were hijacked for their vehicles, or their thugs and as rumors had it, by law enforcement officers as well. (???) So leaving the area safely was not an option, for what seemed like a lifetime...

After more than a week, there were reports of some gasoline to be had, but still hours away...I hoped to be able to hold out long enough for the gas situation to ease up and I could just slip out...

Here's what I finally did: I started to act like I was blooming nuts, as in psycho. We were all armed, to one degree or another, so the situation was already tense. I acted like I was on the edge of insanity, what with the heat, and stress of being there and all...I think I made them wonder that if they pushed me too hard, or long enough, I might cause a spectacular and messy scene. Heh. This was easy enough to do. Soon they were wary enough, and I think they were actually glad when I finally made my escape.

Truth be told, after a week of almost no sleep to speak of, I was starting to wonder if the psycho thing might become real...

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This article is an excerpt from Mrs. Tightwad's Handbook #1: HOW TO SURVIVE DISASTERS AND OTHER HARD TIMES. For more information, see the left sidebar on this site:

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