Only in New Orleans: Be prepared for storms, and maybe nothing will happen

By Annette Sisco

Community news editor

One Monday in mid-July, our super-organized office manager, Edwin, arrived at work without his car. It was in the shop getting its yearly checkup in advance of the peak of storm season.

He made sure the oil was topped off, the tires were good and everything else was roadworthy without feeling rushed and stressed by an actual approaching weather disturbance.

Smart guy, right? He’s also equipped his home (and our office) with LED flashlights from a discount store, which last a long time on one battery.

When the dreaded parabola pokes into the Gulf, my friend Kristy makes reservations at a motel upcountry that takes pets. She is such a devoted animal lover that once, when she was feeding our cats while we were out of town and a hurricane approached, she took one kitty to a kennel in Mississippi (the other one was a cranky old New Orleanian who refused to evacuate).

My husband, A.J., is a veteran of many hurricanes, although as a photojournalist, he never leaves. Instead, this time of year he makes sure our generator is working, fills the gas tanks and stocks up on batteries.

Personally, I make sure all the important family documents are where I can get my hands on them, and I keep the freezer as empty as possible. The rest of my strategy is firmly based on denial.

I’ve been looking for good hurricane prep checklists, but the official pronouncements have been less than satisfying. If you haven’t been through a storm before, my advice is to ask seasoned friends and neighbors for tips. I am pretty sure that will be more useful than advice from FEMA, which seems to raise more questions than it answers.

For example, FEMA recommends that to prepare for a hurricane, you “contact local emergency management to gain a ‘risk assessment’ of the area in which you live.” Who exactly is local emergency management? Should we really all be calling them? (And most pressing of all, why is “risk assessment” in quotes?)

“Select reliable transportation,” FEMA continues. “Don’t give a thought to how you will pay for it.” Oops, I just made that last part up.

“Make arrangements in advance for pets. They are not allowed in shelters.” This seems useless. If a shelter is your only option for escaping wind and flooding, imagine the logistics of finding somewhere out of harm’s way for your pets and getting them there.

“Prepare Disaster Supply Kit.” Do go on. But not in capital letters.

“Arrange to stay with others in an area not at risk.” This is, in fact, probably a good idea, if you can find a place that’s not at risk of something or other.

But to be serious, that last time, in 2005, a lot of us stayed with others without making arrangements. They met us in stadiums, picked us up from airports and parking lots, volunteered their homes without thinking twice.

People are amazing.

Be prepared.

Annette Sisco is community news editor. She can be reached at asisco@theadvocate.com or (504) 432-9257.