Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Liveblogging Hurricane Isaac, Part 3

Well hello, concerned citizens of the Shtetl! I am back from various neighborhood (mis)adventures and ready to report on this hurricane!

Tell 'em, Sammy
On a side note, I have been accused of misusing the term "liveblogging" due to my long gaps of time between posts, and to that I say, THIS IS A STATE OF EMERGENCY AND I WILL NOT BE TAKING YOUR GUFF, MISTER/MA'AM.

Now that I have dealt diplomatically with my critics, I will tell you what has befallen the fair city of New Orleans thus far:

Over on Independence Street, Taylor and Chessa were having a nice porch party where we shared microbrews and wasabi peas next to their freshly boarded-up Empanada Intifada food truck. A visitor showed off the machete-induced banana harvest he had collected from N. Rampart Street earlier in the afternoon.
Empanadas must be protected at all costs

[NB: That is my complete knowledge about that last situation...]

We talked about how fast the clouds were moving and how creepy the wind had become. While I was there, a branch fell from a tree onto a car, but didn't seem to cause much damage or alarm.

Later, I braved the rain - which is now more of an aggressive drizzle, a change from this morning's steady mist - and went over to Jessi and Jason's house, where the PBR was flowing freely and the broccoli cheese casserole was making delicious smells. The consensus there was to stay inside and hope the hurricane action wouldn't be too, well, active.

Hurricane party: BYO Plywood
I hurried back home before dark and have since been sitting in the kitchen listening to the inanity that passes for NPR hurricane broadcast coverage these days: "A spinning motion is taking place," we are informed. "Be advised."

Alright, NPR, I will take that to heart.  As a friend wrote, "During a hurricane they really shouldn't be called 'weather reports,' as much as 'whether reports,'" seeing as the so-called experts seem to know very little about what's actually going on, and know more about what's going to freak people out and keep them listening.

Mixed media messages seem to be contributing to the general confusion coming my way: In the past two hours, I've received a few frantic texts from loved ones in New York, and then a few reassuring calls from loved ones more familiar with Southern weather patterns. "Looks like this is going to be a major storm," one said. "Seems like it won't be so bad after all," said another.

When the wind blows
When eventually I got home, my roommate said she'd been receiving regular calls from Entergy our electricity and gas provider. The first message had been comforting, telling us they'd be over right away with a repair crew should service be interrupted. Subsequent communiques had suggested that while Entergy was really, really sorry for future power outages, they were not about to send repair crews out in 80mph winds. Thank you, Entergy. Your concern will take us far in this storm.

And "the wind is indeed blowing," the NPR reporter is saying. I can confirm this with eyewitness reporting data, ie: looking out my damn window.

We've also been told a tornado watch is in effect for all of Southeast Louisiana, coupled with the hurricane watch and flash flood warnings that will last until tomorrow afternoon at least.

Downed tree on Pauline Street
My cat, who is normally unperturbed by most events, has been extra cuddly all day today. Taylor, the porch party host, said he heard a seagull making a distress cry. Unfortunately, video footage of Taylor's imitation of this birdcall has been lost due to my technological inadequacy, and so, Dear Readers, we have met an early casualty of Hurricane Isaac. Please allow me to take a page from Entergy's book and extend my apologies to comfort you in this time of need.

'Til later, I remain your faithful reporter.

Liveblogging Hurricane Isaac, Part 2

Welcome back to the news from my living room!

The wind is picking up and rain is coming down more steadily. People are still driving around town, so I guess not everywhere is out of gas like reports alleged yesterday.  Curfews are in effect for surrounding parishes, and the mayor is saying to hunker down for real this time because "we are officially in the fight." Still no explanation as to what "hunkering down" is supposed to look like.

Photo by Jessi Taylor
A few blocks over, a friend reports that the National Guard has set up a surveillance station in anticipation of the devastation / militarization to come. Coincidentally, my neighbor told me that someone broke into a house on the corner of our street this morning.  "The neighbors saw him," she wrote on Facebook. "Police was on his ass like redbeans on rice. By the way is what I'm cooking." So while the city may be on high mediumish alert, at least we plan to be well-fed.

We saw our handyperson boarding up that neighbor's door after the incident, a scene which reminded me of the phone conversation I had with our absentee landlord yesterday. I had called her to ask her if we should be making any special preparations for the storm and she said, "Oh, that." Yes, darling, "that." I also asked if the handyperson would be coming by to repair the leaky windows and doors we've been hounding her to have fixed, and she said she didn't know. Wonderful.
Hurricane supplies

In keeping with that impressive effort to distance oneself from reality, I am planning on getting a lot of drinking reading done while I'm on lockdown at home. I started by skimming an email from the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans which read, in part:

When I think about the name of the hurricane, I revert back to the Bible. Isaac was the middle child sandwiched between two charismatic forefathers. Isaac was weak and manipulated by his wife and sons. He was more reactive than proactive and left very little mark on our heritage except for the afternoon mincha prayer. Something to think about...

Thank you, Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans. As a middle child, I take great offense to your extrapolation of negative meaning from Isaac's birth order. I hope they name a hurricane after you.

Soundtrack: Maybelle and Sarah Carter's "Cannonball Blues"

Liveblogging Hurricane Isaac, Part 1

"It's a good time to stay inside and listen to the radio," says my friendly NPR newscaster. "Alright," I agree. It's nasty out there.

And so welcome, Dear Reader, to my first hurricane experience on the Gulf Coast!

The great indoors
As Isaac bears down to make landfall in Louisiana, I have been alternating among moving shit inside from my yard, consulting friends and neighbors to gauge how freaked out / not freaked out I should be, trying to placate my parents and other concerned citizens, and getting steadily drunker by the hour. All of these activities bring their own stresses and joys, which I will chronicle here as long as the power stays on.

Creative parking on my block

My roommate and I just finished clearing the yard and moving our cars to higher ground (ie: the sidewalk). It has been raining on-and-off this morning, and I had a cartoonish experience earlier today trying to bike against the wind down St. Claude  after bartering some C batteries for a container of milk across town at my friend A.'s house.

A. told me that at work she was instructed by her boss to keep calm because she's a manager and the other employees would seek guidance from her during this uncertain time. "I told him that if he expects people to look at me to be a beacon of strength during a natural disaster, they need to look somewhere else," A. said.

I feel her on that. We are getting reports of conflicting urgency about this storm. Though our mayor has said repeatedly that the sewerage pumps are fully operational and the city is structurally expected to pull through this, we are also getting "tornado watch" warnings via text from the National Weather Service, and hysterical admonitions from news media to "hunker down," whatever that actually means.

So it's hard to know how seriously to take all this. I was at Wal-Mart the other day to pick up materials for my own "hunkering down," and as I am a relative novice to these situations, I took the opportunity to survey other people's carts and see what they considered essentials. I found the following items to be the most popular, in no particular order:
  • Batteries
  • Flashlights
  • Bottled Water
  • Bread
  • Condoms
  • Booze
  • Ice Cream
I can get down with all those except the ice cream - what kind of practical purchase is that if the power is expected to go out? But it is cute to see how people are not losing their sense of humor through this. What would you want to have if you were going to be stuck in your house for a few days?

Okay, that's all I got for now, except a very big thank-you to everyone who offered me a place to stay during the storm. I think I have enough canned beans and adult beverages to see me through.