Sky In The Eye
Observations From the Center of a Storm
Pub Note: Errol Laborde’s Blog, the Editor’s Room, recently won First Place in the News Blog category at the Press Club of New Orleans’ annual awards competition. This was the third time that Laborde has won that award.
Suddenly everything stood still. I had been watching from the home’s second floor window at the branches of an ancient oak that stood higher than the two-story houses that surrounded it. This tree has experienced hurricanes before. Now it was experiencing a storm like few others.
Many hurricanes have raged their way close to the city, but seldom has the actual “eye” of the storm crossed the town. That happened in 1947 and then again in 1965 as part of Hurricane Betsy’s core clipped the city, and now this day, Oct. 28 in the infamous year 2020. As befitting the year, the storm was an odd ball that happened as the hurricane season was supposed to be ending and carrying a name from the Greek alphabet. Who knew, other than Greeks and geeks that a word that started with Z would be fifth in the Greek compilation and not at the end as in our everyday English alphabet. But here we were awaiting the wrath of Zeta only two months after the L for Laura had raked Southwest Louisiana. Where had the other letters and time gone?
If they disturb a holiday, hurricanes are most likely to mess up Labor Day, as Katrina did, or maybe Independence Day, but not Halloween. This time storm preparation included taking down skeletons and assorted ghouls from front yards rather than sheltering barbecue pits
Of all of the storm’s traits it will the location of the eye that will capture a spot in the history books. To earn stripes as a hurricane survivor a person should have experienced being in the center of an eye. Now we are a region of people who can boast that they have done that.
My experience began almost exactly at 6 p.m. as though by command the tree branches stopped swaying and rested at ease. The rain ceased and there seemed to be streaks of light breaking through the gray sky. Then, strangest of all, I could hear kids laughing.
That sent me downstairs and out the front door onto the porch where I was stunned by the sky. It was a celestial color match that I had never seen before, a pale gold blending into a light purple. All day we had been seeing dark gray, now this, a blast of color. Across the street a mom was leading a group of kids, following in line like a group of baby ducks, for a walk. Two of the tykes were carrying tiny umbrellas, waving them while overjoyed that there was no rain. Neighbors began gathering outside as though liberated. One kid shouted, “everybody is going for a walk now!”
There was something about the gold and purple sky, however, that suggest that the kids’ procession would not last long. The sky at that moment was hauntingly beautiful but it was also disturbingly fragile. Gradually the colors began to fade to be replaced by another palette of gray. Within a half-hour of first being encompassed by Zeta’s eye, rain had started again. The branches on the tree renewed their swaying.
We were now experiencing what we had been told about life in the eye of a storm: The center can be very peaceful and clear, but we were standing in a swirl and the back end is approaching. The winds will be from the opposite direction and there will be more of the rain that we thought had ended.
What is best about the back side of the eye is that it is the beginning of the end. Soon the storm will be totally Mississippi- bound.
I am glad we had experienced they eye but am not in a hurry to meet one again. There are 24 letters to the Greek alphabet. I was curious which one was last. May none of us ever have to experience a hurricane named Omega.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s books, “New Orleans: The First 300 Years” and “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 and 2013), are available at local bookstores and at book websites.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 9:30 A.M. SUNDAYS.WYES-TV, CH. 12.