Long Story Short: Storm’s a Brewin’

Illustration by Jose Santana Firpo

I thought only old people talked about the weather. Worried about it, planned for it, felt it in their knees before it even hit their zip code. But the current state of affairs in Louisiana has even the children charging their iPads as soon as their phones start with the alerts. Waters could rise. Power could go out. Roads could close. Trees could fall. Dogs could howl.

Better plan for the storm because weather is on its way. Time to batten down the hatches. Jim Cantore said so. 

But long before the term “weather” warranted its own TV channels, people with history at their backs and a tale or two to tell would talk about the storms with pleasant-sounding names attached to them. Camille, Betsy, Hilda. Hurricane Audrey was explained to me in detail by an older woman who, as a child, clung to the top of a tree in Cameron Parish with the rest of her family as the floodwaters crashed by. When her uncle died of a heart attack while in the tree, the family was forced to just let the body go because they couldn’t hold him any longer. 

Now that’s a pass-along story you just can’t stop telling because the truth (as we all know) is stranger than fiction. And releasing a body of a loved one to the floodwaters is crazy sad, but also close enough to present-day reality to make it honest. 

Storm’s a brewin’. Katy bar the door.

Well, we’ve come a long way since the early 1950s in terms of predicting the weather, and we now have plenty of professionals who can track a storm and suggest how and where it might land on the coast. Unless a family hasn’t taken heed of the TV stations, or the sirens, or (in some cases) the door-to-door evacuation plea by local officials, a family in 2021 shouldn’t end up in a tree. Although that might make national news stations gleeful for the coverage.

Instead, it is more likely that we, in south Louisiana, will be uncomfortable. That’s right. No electricity; there’s plenty of debris to pick up; and it’s dang hot outside. Enter the generator.

Now, portable generators have been available to the public for decades, and I attribute them to my sanity today. When Hurricane Gustav shut us out of electricity for a week in 2008, I had a five-month-old plus three additional kids under the age of six. They slept on the floor in a downstairs bedroom with a window-unit air-conditioner attached to a generator that my husband kept feeding gas. When we ran out of provisions—and our mental stability was on the brink—we drove to a family member’s house in Westlake where our three-year-old celebrated his birthday in a carport party attended by kind neighbors, who we didn’t know, bearing gifts. It wasn’t what I had planned, but I didn’t have to let a body go with the floodwaters.

But ever since Katrina and Gustav (and more recent no-named storms who dare to knock us out of power), I’ve noticed a surge in whole-house generators. Namely, because the generators are attached to the houses that surround my own. No sooner do the lights flicker—and we hold our breath in reverent prayer—than they shut off completely to mock our faith, and the whole world goes dark. For a moment. But just give it a few seconds and you will hear the roar of the chosen few. The whole-house-generator owners. While you are scrambling for flashlights so that you can find candles to light, they are daring to open the refrigerator (Don’t open the fridge! The meat will spoil!) and pull out a brewski. While you find your phone and put it on flashlight mode so you can close the door to the bathroom for privacy, they are flicking on the news and watching the power outage coverage. Or the baseball game. They aren’t too concerned.

But concern is the name of the game this hurricane season. The nation’s meteorologists are already predicting an unusually active storm season for 2021, with coverage starting even earlier: May 15 instead of the typical June 1. That’s right. Storm’s a brewin’ out there, somewhere, just waiting to take us out.

So batten down the hatches, stock up on provisions, and find a family member or friend who has a whole-house generator and is willing to have you sleep on the floor. From there you can watch the baseball game and make it to the bathroom in style. 

We are storm-season professionals. Take that, Cantore.

But while you’re at it, Katy bar the door.