Steve Romano, Luling: Realized Hurricane Katrina was finally the ‘Big One’
The thing I remember most about enduring the Katrina experience was the realization that this was probably the ‘Big One’ disaster planners had been predicting.
It still amazes me how fast things turned urgent and how fast we all had to scramble.
4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26, 2005. I get off from work at St. Charles Parish Planning and Zoning and head straight to the St. Rose Driving Range so I could hit golf balls and blow off a little steam. There was a golf tournament the next morning at Willowdale Country Club, and I wanted to be ready.
I briefly glimpsed at a TV at the range to hear the latest on the hurricane out in the Gulf. Everything I heard seemed to indicate that it was likely headed for Florida. Saturday morning, the 27th at 7:30 a.m., I am at Willowdale getting ready for the 8 a.m. start of the tournament when my supervisor calls my cell.
He is at the parish’s Emergency Operations Center about to go into an emergency meeting and tells me to stand by because the storm took a turn for the worse. A major announcement from the parish president was forthcoming.
Ten minutes later, he calls to tell me to notify everyone at the tournament that a MANDATORY evacuation notice had been issued for 4 p.m. So, in a span of less than 24 hours, I went from hitting a bucket of golf balls to battening down the hatches at home, piling family and possessions into our cars and hightailing it north to Baton Rouge.
But once we got there, we had nothing to do but wait and watch the news reports. I spent those next few days wondering how bad that b-word of a hurricane was going to be when she struck New Orleans and how many thousands of people were about to die, and how many of those people I would know.
But it was the aftermath that has left the most lasting impression on me. New Orleans underwater, people on rooftops, at the Superdome and Convention Center, waiting DAYS for the cavalry.
It bothers me to this day that the news crews were able to get into the disaster area way before we could get in there rescuing Americans in an American city that was underwater.