Tag Archive for Hurricane Katrina

Remembering Katrina, Six Years On


It’s Monday, August 29th.

Six years ago, on another Monday, August 29th, Hurricane Katrina, a Category Three storm pushing a Category Five storm surge, slammed into coastal Mississippi. For the first twelve hours after landfall, the city of New Orleans appeared to have avoided the worst. But then the levees designed to hold back Lake Pontchartrain began breaking — the Industrial Canal levee, the 17th Street Canal levee between Metairie and the western parts of New Orleans, the London Avenue Canal levee adjacent to the Gentilly neighborhood, and the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet levees that had been meant to protect Chalmette and St. Bernard Parish. Within a day, eighty percent of the City of New Orleans had flooded, and nearly all of St. Bernard Parish was underwater. At least 1,836 people died along the Gulf Coast, most from the flooding, making Katrina the deadliest storm in U.S. history since the 1928 Lake Okeechobee Hurricane in South Florida, when approximately 2,500 people were killed.

Thank God Hurricane Irene wasn’t worse than it was. The worst effects of Irene appear to be the delayed effects, the post-storm swelling of rivers and streams. Vermont, where Irene swept through as a tropical storm, looks to be suffering the worst flooding. Seeing the photos of homes inundated with rushing water brought back a lot of memories. Those folks in Vermont and New Jersey and the flooded portions of Philadelphia are going to have many tough months ahead of them. Water is a terrible destroyer of homes, far worse than high winds. Winds may leave many beloved possessions behind, still salvageable. Water, and the mold growth it induces, rots one’s possessions and turns them to foul, stinking garbage. It’s an awful thing to witness.

My family and I were stranded in Albuquerque, New Mexico six years ago. We’d flown out with our two baby sons and four days’ worth of clothing and medicines to attend the Bubonicon science fiction convention and to visit my parents. We weren’t able to return to our home in New Orleans for almost two months. We had the great fortune that our house was located on the west bank of the Mississippi, in a different flood plain from the majority of New Orleans, and so was spared the flooding that devastated over a hundred thousand homes. But had the storm made landfall just fifteen miles more to the west, it would have been our levees that breached, and our neighborhood would have been inundated with up to nine feet of water.

My hopes go out to all those folks who will be rebuilding after a flood. It is heartbreaking, backbreaking, stinking work. But somehow, it gets done.

I’ve posted an article I wrote called “Crossing the River Styx,” which was about my return to New Orleans six weeks after the levees broke. It originally appeared in Moment Magazine in April, 2006. The congregations I describe in the article have all rebuilt and are once more thriving, six years on.

Welcome to My New Online “Den”

Well, well, it’s been a while. . .

Aside from little forays here and there — some interviews, commenting on other folks’ blogs — I’ve been “off the net” for a few years now.  My original website, erected in 2003 to coincide with the publication of my first book, Fat White Vampire Blues, died three years later in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  My webmaster owned a beautiful, historic home in the Bywater neighborhood, which ended up covered in seven feet of flood waters after the levees broke.  He vanished, and I, distracted by a bazillion post-disaster concerns, allowed my website to languish, failing even to pay the renewal fee on my domain name.

Gentle readers, here’s a hint — don’t let your domain name expire.  It will be immediately colonized by a porn site.  I began receiving emails from dismayed or bemused readers and friends: “Hey, what’s the deal?  Did you go into the porn business???”  No, I did not.  However, my former domain name, which I will not list here because I have no desire to send more business to the rascals who took over my abandoned property, is now forever associated with bad photography, plain paper wrappings, and men living in their mother’s basements (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  I know this for certain because, during my recent exertions putting together this new site, I went to the Internet Wayback Machine in an effort to salvage materials from my old site.  I attempted to do this at the office (not wise, but I’ve been eager to get this site up and running).  Taxpayers, rest easy — your government has very secure filters to block employees from viewing porn.  Even when I directed the Internet Wayback Machine to take me back to 2003, to years before I abandoned my domain name, still the electronic nanny blocked my access and informed me that I had attempted to view porn.  There I was, trying to salvage old articles about George Alec Effinger and my obsession of collecting vintage laptop computers, and the censor built into my network was berating me for trying to view porn, porn, PORN.  Let that be a lesson to you.  Pay your bills in a timely fashion, particularly for your domain name.

After the pornification of my website, I took to blogging at the Night Shades Books message boards, which, in the middle years of the last decade, were a thriving community of hundreds of science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers and fans.  I used their boards as an emergency communication tool to reach friends and family during the months my immediate family and I were trapped away from our home in Katrina’s wake, first in Albuquerque and later in Miami, and my posts evolved into an ongoing commentary on being exiled, returning home, and participating in the rebuilding of New Orleans.  Unfortunately, an invasion of spambots utterly infested the message boards sometime in 2007, driving out the majority of participants, and eventually Night Shade shut their boards down.  The demise of that community was a real shame.  Lucius Shepherd, all by himself, had nearly 30,000 posts on his boards and sub-boards by the time the end came.  Maybe this August, when the next anniversary of Katrina approaches, I’ll try to salvage some of those old disaster-related posts and provide a sampling here.

Anyway, over the next few weeks, I’ll be unboxing my old knicknacks, touching up their paint, and displaying them on the freshly dusted shelves of my new den here, along with lots of new stuff.  Among the new stuff will be an article called “A New Hope, A New Tack,” which explains where I’ve been these past few years, what I’ve been up to, and why I’ve chosen now to get back into the swing of blogging.

Meanwhile, I’ll be doing my darndest to get the hang of WordPress.  I’m liking it so far.  A lot.  Putting up my own site is a much different experience than paying someone to do it for me.  Rather than having it updated three or four times a year, I’ll be fiddling with this den of mine constantly, moving the furniture, adjusting the pictures on the walls, and patching drafty spots around the windows.  I expect it’ll be a lot of fun.

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