katrina v. katrina

Thursday, September 08, 2005

 • Thank You, Clarification, Update

From Katrina

Well, as you have seen, we are safe and sound. I returned to a regular full day of work today. I can't even begin to say "Thank you" to the wonderful people with whom I work, the friends and family that had us in their prayers, and all of the 'perfect strangers' that contributed to us in deed and thought. Just thank you.

You have read about our visit to the Red Cross, and I have a couple of points that I would like to qualify:
  1. It isn't that my mother was "denied aid", it was quite a bit more than that. My family is blessed, we - and by extension, my mother - have a roof over our heads, running water, food, etc, I am not discounting our good fortune nor denying that there are others in great and terrible need. The other side of that is that she has lost her home, become unemployed, lost access to her bank account, become displaced, lost everything she has ever owned with the exception of some clothes, personal papers, a Rubbermaid tote of pictures and a couple pieces of furniture. Granted, she has 1000% more than many, but devastated is devastated.

  2. Washington Parish, the "county" in which my mother had her home, is one of the parishes / counties that were declared, by President Bush, a Federal Disaster Area. Under that qualification, each and every person that has been affected or displaced from that area is 100% eligible for aid and assistance. Aid and assistance doesn't necessarily mean cash, it can mean an offer of counseling, making phone calls to the local hospital / VA to arrange care, etc. As my mother (and other displaced persons) sat at the interview tables at the Red Cross, she was offered a cookie, a brownie, and a pack of cheese crackers. I don't feel that any of those items, at that time or in that place, qualify as aid or assistance.

  3. We were told at the disaster relief center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (the one at the Mercedes Benz factory, not the college), that we were to immediately report to the Red Cross closest to our final destination and register. The registration process, we were told, would put my mother in the database that allows other people to search for her by name and / or location, would qualify her for counseling and care related to having survived a natural disaster, would allow her to begin the paperwork that would let the government know where she was, and would start the paperwork for any disaster relief aid. When directly asked if there was any paperwork that my mom should fill out so that people that might be looking for her could find her, the reply was "No. We don't have time for that. I can't imagine how many phone calls we'd be getting. We'd be swamped." The entire time we were there, my mother was never asked her name and never asked to present her driver's license or any other form of ID.

  4. When asked point blank why my mother was not being considered for assistance of any kind, we were told that assistance was only for those with "extenuating circumstances." I believe that most reasonable people would consider losing your home and fleeing a Federal Disaster Area as "extenuating".

We did get mother registered for unemployment yesterday. WorkforceOne will be mailing the claim to mom's former employer. I'm not sure how that is going to work. Something like this has never really happened before and there is no plan in place to verify benefits for people whose former employer can't be contacted or may no longer exist. My mother is fortunate -- she was a state employee. It might feel like the entire state of Louisiana is gone, but it really isn't.

I completed the online FEMA registration yesterday as well. The form was straightforward and user friendly. It also concluded with a statement saying that an inspection of mother's property would be scheduled and that she would need to be present for it. Not really sure how that is going to work out, either.

Today my mom went and applied for general public assistance (food stamps). Yes, we can feed my mom and our family right now. We have become a family of seven and have never been above the line of "comfortable". My mother has never been on public assistance in her 55 years of life.

I am calling the VA today to find out about the center in Fort Wayne; my mom is a thirteen-year veteran of the US Army and receives veteran medical care for her annual physical.

We are a family and we will make it. We have so much to be thankful for: a safe trip, my family's safe weathering of the storm, my mother coming to join us here. We are thankful that none of our friends or family are missing or dead or unaccounted for. We are thankful for the love and support and prayers and assistance of our friends and co-workers and the kindness of strangers.

We are counting our blessings.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

 • Irony



Here's the picture:

Cathie has just arrived in Florida with her mother at her sister Debbie's house. After sitting down to take a rest after the long drive, she hears conversation from the next room.

"Oh wow! Oh, my gosh! WOW!"

Urm...

"HEY CATHIE! KATRINA'S COMING TO LOUISIANA!"

"Katrina's already done been to Louisiana!"

"NO! YOUR DAUGHTER KATRINA! SHE'S COMING DOWN FROM INDIANA TO FIND YOU!"

They had been looking over the message boards at wwltv.com and ran across where I'd posted a link to this blog.

The Internet is very cool.

So Cathie knew for an hour or so that Katrina was coming before we got a hold of her.

 • Pictures!



There's a gallery now.

Link is at the right if you want to come back to it.

[The above image is a splice of two pictures Katrina took. Click to zoom. It's ironic.]

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

 • Sigh...

Katrina and Cathie just visited the Red Cross in Fort Wayne. Katrina said they were handing out cash and assistance cards to victims of Katrina. When they were up in line, Cathie was refused assistance.

"Why?"

"We are only helping people with extenuating cirumstances."

"What about that last guy?"

"Well, he was rescued from the top of a house."

"So losing the use of your house to the hurricane, moving a thousand miles away and living with six other people is not extenuating?"

"No ma'am. But if your mother were to find herself homeless, we could probably help. Here's the number for the homeless hotline and if she becomes homelss and calls them, they will contact us."

"Great."

"You might try the unemployment office..."

I have never seen anything mismanaged more by the government than what's going on with the hurricane.

Cathie says that all the gas stations were closed in Washington Parish so they could bring in trucks to pump out the remaining gas to send to New Oreleans, essentially stranding the residents of Angie, Bogalusa, Varnado and Franklinton (pronounced FRANK-el-tn) without gas that was in thier towns!

I'm so glad you citizens in the private sector are doing so much to help, because the powers that be certainly aren't.

Monday, September 05, 2005

 • They are home!





As of 2:00 p.m. today, Katrina and Cathie are home.

They have tons of stories and, soon, pictures.

Thanks for your support!

We will be posting pictures and stories over the next week, so keep stopping back!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

 • Denoument

Katrina finally called me tonight.

She and her mom met about 2:00 p.m. in Angie and spent the day packing Cathie's stuff into the station wagon, Cathie's full-sized van and a trailer. They left for Indiana tonight about 7:30.

They are planning to stay at a hotel. Katrina asked her mom what city they should try to crash in:

"Sleep in Hattiesburg?"

"Nope."

"Meridian?"

"Nope. Still not far enough away from there."

"Tuscaloosa?"

I guess they are going to try to get a room in Tuscaloosa.

I expect them here tomorrow night.

Katrina said cell service was better in Louisiana, but worse in Mississippi. Go figure.

She also said that they told her mom not to expect full utilies until Thanksgiving.

Man...

 • Climax

Cathie has been found.

Katrina made to to Angie about 3:00 and discovered that her mom's house was empty, open and severly damaged.

Neigbors/relatives (in that neck of Louisiana, there's little difference) disagreed on nearly every detail, but did agree that Cathie had taken her mother to Florida yesterday morning due to a downturn in her health that couldn't be treated locally in hurricane-torn Washington Parish.

Why Florida? Cathie's sister, Deborah, lives there and now will be taking care of her mother.

Katrina got phone numbers for Deborah from digging around Cathie's house, as none of her relatives knew thier own matriarchs' phone numbers.

Katrina immediately left to head out of Louisiana as the local "Barney Fife" has set a 7:00 p.m. curfew in that corner of the state.

She called me about 6:30 p.m. once she got a cell phone signal and gave me the phone numbers.

I called Florida and talked to a clearly anxious Cathie. I worked out some details and then called Katrina to fill her in and she, in turn called her mother as the signal was getting stronger.

Katrina called me back in tears to say that her mom was leaving Florida immediately and coming back to Angie, then would leave there to come and live in Indiana with us.

A weight has been lifted from all of us.

Katrina hopes to meet up face-to-face about 2:00 tomorrow.

Much more in the morning...

Friday, September 02, 2005

 • Going home

Five and a half hours with no word.

The good news is, this blog should get a lot more interesting very soon.

Going home to set up the Barn Sale. More on that in the next post.

 • Three hours of silence

One school of thought says: one can't really appreciate the dawn until one has waited through the dark of night.

She's had time to reach Angie. I don't know if she's had time to reach her mom.

Reports say that them main roads are pretty clear. The reports say nothing about the kind of backroads in Louisiana that are named after the people who live at the end of them.

Cathie's house is on Tom Woodard Rd.

I'm pretty sure everything's okay. One can't help but wonder and worry in a situation like this.

Night is upon me. I anticipate the dawn, but keep checking my watch and seeing the second hand moving too slowly.

 • Hattiesburg

Got a ten-second phone call that she's near Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

 • Thirteen

ring

"Hello?"

"Hi, I'm almost to Louisiana. I got a quick signal so I called to say 'I love you.'"

"I love you."

crackle

silence

I knew this was going to happen, but I guess I wasn't prepared for it. There may be no more communication for a very long time.

It's like when the first manned orbiter was coming back from space and upon reentry, there was a communications blackout (that always happens, but we didn't know it at the time) and the Houston control center sat stunned not knowing if the orbiter burned up on re-entry or what.

Thirteen Seconds later, it showed up again.

It may be Thirteen Hours for me.

Or more.

 • Update

Meridian, Mississippi is completely out of gas. They just got power yesterday.

(I'm on the phone with her now.)

She says she sees mostly large roadsign damage.

She just passed a gas station with gas. There was line from the pump all the way up the exit ramp, with a cop allowing each car up to the pump. "This must be the martial law thing, huh?" she wonders.

She still has 3/4 tank and 140 miles to go. I calculate that the 14.5 gallons in gas cans in the back of the station wagon gives her 400 miles reserve. So she shouldn't be stranded.

 • Meridian, Mississippi

She's stopping in Meridian, hoping to find gas.

If you have words of encouragement for Katrina, please leave them in comments and I'll pass them on the next time I talk to her.

My ham radio friend got a number for the Office of Emergency Prepardness near Angie. The phone number is supposed to still be good. I called it and got a message that said (word-for-word) "We're sorry...thank you."

They don't know what the problem is, but they are real sorry!

 • Boligee, Alabama

Voicemail from Katrina (the wife, not the storm--that would be weird):

In [Boligee] where I just stopped all three gas stations don't have any gas. I didn't see any houses--they were just like highway gas stations, truck stops, whatever--but there were lots of people sitting in their cars with their doors open. And there were like dogs walking around the parking lot. I mean there's always dogs, but it's like being in a different place.

There a lot more trees down now too. There's a lot of big road signs twisted up, but I didn't want to stop along the highway so I didn't get any pictures. I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities for pictures later.

Livingston (as in Doctor), also, had no gas.

Ham Radio
A good friend is a ham radio operator. He's hooking up with ham radion rescue groups in the affected areas and may have a lead on someone who can check up on Cathie.

I hope so.

 • Good Morning

We're up!

Katrina says now that it's light she starting to see limbs down and more "stormy" stuff.

Need coffee...

 • Sleep

I'm off to sleep.

See you in a couple or three hours, unless I get news.

 • Alabama

"Hi, how's it going?"

"Well, Kiefer owns part of Alabama now."

Katrina says that the last gas station was out of all but the highest grade gasoline, but it was only $2.99 a gallon.

"I missed Huntsville" She said, pronouncing it "Huntsvul" like a native. "I'm not sure how. I mean there a big rocket with a light on top--Huntsville has that NASA thing and all-- and I thought 'Goody! I'm coming to Huntsville' and then I never saw it."

She commented that she must have been to interested in her (audio) book and didn't notice. She's listening to Hillary Clinton's Living History. (That's right, Nancy, I married a liberal.)

[Twenty-four straight hours of Hillary. Let me say that again: Twenty-four straight hours of Hillary. I'd think that'd be trying for even the staunchest liberal. Okay, Ric, off the soapbox.]

She'll be stopping at a rest area soon and taking a nap. I'll be catching some Z's too.

 • Comments

I've turned on anonymous and public comments. I don't know how they got turned off...

Sorry if you tried to comment and couldn't.

 • Anxious

She is 35 milies from Alabama. Her grandmother lives in Tuscaloosa if she needs to stop. Unfortunately, Katrina doesn't think her aged grandmother would understand a "quick stop and move on." She may try to visit on the way back, time permitting.

The last place she stopped for gas it was $2.99 a gallon and the were rationing it--limiting purchases to 10 gallons. Luckily she only needed 2.73 gallons. She's trying to keep the tank topped up as she moves south. Plus it gives her a chance to stretch and Kiefer a chance to claim some more of this great land as his own.

I asked her how she was feeling about everything and she said she wasn't so anxious about her mom, as about facing potential road outages, reroutes, flat tires and goverment authorities telling her she can't go look for her mom.

She knows her mom is at home, she says, because if she evaucated, she would have called her on her birthday on Wednesday and let us know she was all right.

I'm a bit weary right now, but I've got some work to do (job work, that is) so I'll be around a while longer.

I can't see her getting anywhere near Angie until 8 a.m. at the absolute earliest.

Thanks for the donations that have come in from my brother and others since the last time I mentioned it. It really restores my faith in mankind.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

 • Crossing to Tennesee

Katrina called about 11:30. She'd just stopped at a truck stop about two miles from Tennessee. She said gas was a lot cheaper, about $2.77 (compared to $3.29 in Columbia City, IN) and that it seemed to be getting cheaper the farther south she went.

She also said that Kiefer Joe owns most of the Lewis and Clark Trail now.

Good News: Some folks on No Puppy Mills said that they lived about an hour away from Angie (in Denham Springs, LA--Britney Spears' home town) and that Katrina could use their house as base camp. They also said they'd take care of Joe if the authorities weren't letting animals into the affected areas.

 • Bardsville

About an hour ago, Katrina stopped at Bardsville to top her car off with three gallons of gas and to let Keifer do his business. Kiefer, generally well-trained, chased a cat into the woods.

He came back.

She decided not to visit the Maker's Mark distillery this time through.

Kiefer owns another state now.

 • Nearly to Kentucky

I just talked to Katrina--she's nearly to Louisville, Kentucky.

I was telling her about the latest donation and while we were being mutually misty over it she said, "You know, I think everyone wants to get on thier horse and go off and rescue someone, and everyone who donates is doing just that. They're not just riding on coattails--they are joining the quest."

On a lighter note, she said that when she stops to exercise Kiefer, he pees on every tree he can find. She says he must be thinking "woohoo I own half the country! This state is mine!"

I love that my wife makes me laugh.

 • Thank you, Donors!

Thanks to all at Katrina's work and those on the Internet who have donated. I've listed and will list all donors on the bottom right of this page.

If you don't want you're name there, tell me when you donate or email me.

 • Indianapolis

Katrina is currently going around Indianapolis on Interstate 465.

The nearest big town to Angie (located in the northeast corner of Louisiana) is Bogalosa. Residents of Angie are supposed to have evacuated to there, but Cathie's email on Sunday indicated that she was staying in the house.

Cathie's house is about the size of a double-wide trailer and was built by Cathie herself in the 80's. She's a strong, independant woman (like my wife) and is used to taking care of herself. Upon retiring from the military, she began working at Washington Parish Prison near Varnado (pronounced "VWAHR-neh-doh" not "Var-NAY-doh", don't ask me why).

We have donations! I'll list names in my next post.

 • On the road

Well, Katrina's on the road with 14.5 gallons of gas in gas cans, several gallons of water, a chain saw, chains and Kiefer Joe.

She believes that her mom stayed in her house to care for her own mother who is bed-ridden after open heart surgery. An email from her mom Sunday night said that this was the plan.

Angie is so remote and, at last report, so blocked in by felled trees that her mom would have to abandon her mother and walk to get help or to a phone. Reports say that 9 out of every 10 trees is down in that area, many on to houses.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

 • The story so far

My wife, Katrina, is soon to be leaving Columbia City, Indiana for Angie, Louisiana to find her mother, Cathie Hutchins, who was struck hard by the storm Katrina.

Yes, ironically, Katrina is really my wife's name.

We are about to load a car up with water, gas, chains and a chainsaw so she can leave.

With her will be Kiefer Joe, a 3-year-old great dane and constant companion.

More very soon.

P.S. I will put up a link if you want to donate gas money, etc. to her quest.

Email us at katrina@bitchen.com.

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