It’s been 11 years since Katrina hit us. Maybe I bring it up more often than is polite, but it has colored every single decision I make since then. Going through something so large and devastating, that it added nuances to the word devastating, changes you. It also means that when historic flooding happens literally in your back yard, it doesn’t bother you all that much.
Not that I feel that loss and pain are nothing, but my mind goes into work mode and starts listing out what needs to be done. All the while, every time I hear that a friend has lost their home, the mantra plays over and over that at least the people got out. Stuff can be replaced, people can not.
Meanwhile I am asked “What can we do?” If only the answer were simple.
At first, nothing. Right now the water is not completely gone. Many roads are still streams. Some people are still trapped, and boat rescues are trying to reach them.
As the water goes down and people are able to get back home, the list of what we do and do not need gets specific.
Rubber boots – yards have become marsh and have snakes
Mosquito repellent: hot + wet + Louisiana = massive mosquito explosion
Cortisone creams to treat mosquito and ant bites.
Razor knives, good quality. To cut wet sheet rock and remove carpet before the entire house mildews.
Carpet knives, good quality. See above.
Garbage bags, big and industrial strength to hold carpet, sheet rock, a ton of damaged items and keep in the smell of week old rotten food.
Isopropyl alcohol, 90%
Spray bottles, the good kind from Lowes and Home Depot that don’t break after 3 squirts. Spraying stuff down with bleach kills the germs. Spraying stuff down with alcohol helps speed the drying.
Rubber gloves, the good ones that don’t rip.
Bottled water – the individual kind that is horrid for the environment. We need stuff we can open, drink and through the bottle away.
These things seem so mundane, but after a day or two, we will not be able to find them in our area. Have you ever driven two hours, on gas and time you did not want to spare, to get a good razor knife?
Gift cards let people get what they really need.
Lowes & Home Depot
Walmart and Target
Chain Restaurants, because sometimes what you most need is to get a hot meal and feel like things are normal for an hour.
What we do NOT need:
After Katrina, church groups bussed truckloads of used clothing into the cities, but they did not logic out that those who did not lose their houses still had their clothing and those who lost their houses had no place to keep the clothing. All of this clothing was abandoned in the parking lots of grocery stores that never reopened. It piled up into huge dump-sized piles. Got wet. Mildewed. And then caused us to have to clean up something that we should not have had to clean up.
The same goes for:
Think if you were living in your car or in a friend’s spare room, what kind of stuff would you look at and say, “I have no clue where to put this.” We don’t need that stuff.
If you have to donate clothing, clean, unused, brand new, still in the package underwear. And new socks! Everyone needs that. Towels too. Not clothing, but useful.
I had little kids when Katrina hit. My baby had his first birthday in the home of the wonderful people who we evacuated to. I had never met these people before Katrina hit. I still love them. My oldest was 15 and thought she lost everything.
Lots of people here have kids too. What do kids want when they have lost everything? Colors and coloring books are not their generation. They need real distractions.
What Kids Need:
Hand held game devices with lots of batteries.
Mp3 players, preloaded with modern music
Tablets – i.e. portable computers that allow them to communicate with friends to make sure that they too are alright. They have people they also want to check on.
Don’t forget the pets. The shelters are loaded and many temporary ones are taking in animals that could not be evacuated.
Pet food: the good stuff. Lots of pets can’t stomach the cheap food.
Blankets and pet beds.
Only a select unlucky few get to go through major natural disasters more than one in their lives. It does change you, but it makes you realize that life goes on and stuff can be replaced. Also that certain things need to be done in a certain order. Share if you think this will help someone.
Josie Esperanza Sewell