The Long Wait

Chapter 4 – Hurricane Ivine

It was still hurricane season on the beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast. We’d already had three named storms hit the US but all in places other than Mississippi. On September 10 our luck seemed to change for the worse. Hurricane Ivan had been bouncing around the Caribbean, entered the Gulf of Mexico, and was making a beeline for us. On September 11 Ivan was a category 5 storm with a projected track headed for the mouth of the Pascagoula River; in essence, straight for my front door. I decided I needed to leave.

I made hurricane preps and on Monday night, September 13, I let Winnie know what was happening. Wednesday morning, September 15, I left the house and evacuated north to my nephew Terry in Murfresburo, Tennessee, about 8 hours drive. I had let Winnie know were I was going and told her I’d contact her again as soon as I arrived at Terry’s house. I never made it.

About 125 miles from home, directly north of Mobile, Alabama, my venerable old pickup truck broke down. After a four hours wait I was towed into the small town of Brewton, Alabama. Mechanics there worked for three hours trying to get me back on road while the storm approached landfall, and by five o’clock they determined I needed major repairs. I was able to call Terry to let him know what happened, then went off to the local Red Cross shelter to ride out the storm.

The storm struck that night and devastated Alabama, including the town I was staying it. The Mississippi portion of the Gulf Coast was completely unaffected. Next morning Brewton had no power, no phones, ALL the roads were blocked with downed trees, roofs of building were missing, and I was in a Red Cross shelter with my broken truck sitting in a repair shop.

I struck up an acquaintance with a woman sharing the Red Cross shelter, Brenda, who lived right on the Alabama coast directly where the storm had made landfall. When the damage reports started coming in she realized there was an excellent chance the storm had made her homeless. Her town was not even allowing anyone to return until they had a better damage assessment.

We got to talking and struck up a deal. The next afternoon, Friday, I pulled my belongings out of my poor truck still in the shop (one of the few buildings in town undamaged) and headed back to Gautier with Brenda in her van. We had agreed Brenda would drive us back to my place and spend a few days until she could get to her house and see what happened.

We returned to my unscathed house late Friday afternoon, September 17. Once we had gotten close to Mobile I was able to let my family know where I was. But with the time difference I had to wait until the evening to contact Winnie.

Meanwhile, when I hadn’t contact Winnie Wednesday night she became worried. She e-mailed my brother in Los Angeles several times, who could only tell her that he in fact did not know where I was. Then she unsuccessfully attempted to call Terry’s house. When she couldn’t get through to Terry she contacted our friend in Shanghai, with whom we had visited with during our honeymoon trip, to ask for help. Our friend couldn’t contact Terry by phone either.

Friday evening I was finally able to contact Winnie. I was so weary I could only tell her I was safe, the truck was broken, and I would tell her more the next morning. I pointed Brenda to the guest room, helped her get settled, and slept.

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