I’m not the kind of person who watches the weather with great fascination. Unlike my father, who in his old age has become an alarmist about every rain cloud, weather annoys me more than it scares me. I never even really think to check the forecast – summer in New Orleans means it’s going to be hot, and it’s going to storm every day – unless I have some kind of outdoor event I’m planning to host or attend, and even then, it’s not like the forecast is necessarily all that reliable.
I’ve had outdoor parties that I felt certain would be rained out take place with nary a droplet of rain, and I’ve stood in a downpour, huddled under a tarp with all of humanity while waving my phone and yelling, “It says a ZERO PERCENT chance of rain. ZERO! Look! Right here! ZERO!”
I know weather events are unpredictable, and I know they can trigger PTSD in New Orleanians who lived through Katrina.
I was actually here for the 2005 Hurricane Cindy (as opposed to the charming Tropical Storm Cindy that just passed through), although I had no idea it was happening until it was over. My ex and I had taken a trip to New Orleans from our home in Missouri over the Fourth of July holiday, celebrating our second wedding anniversary. We were at a friend’s house when the wind whipped up, and we drove home in the downpour very cautiously, and the next day, we helped my dad pick up a few tree branches. The whole thing had taken me by surprise, but I thought it was actually pretty thrilling and romantic – the wind, the rain, the thunder, the weak, watery sunlight and damp streets the next day.
“I kind of miss all the excitement of hurricane season,” I remarked – foreshadowing, you might say darkly, as we all know what was lying in wait for us just a few weeks later.
Two days later, we flew back to Missouri, never knowing that we’d never be coming back to the same New Orleans we were leaving.
I get it – I get it – I know why we have to take all weather seriously, especially named storms.
I was lucky enough to miss Katrina, except in a peripheral sense, but since I’ve moved back in 2008, I’ve dutifully evacuated for Gustav and Isaac, and when neither of them was nearly as bad as we’d feared, I had the good sense and the perspective to be grateful.
Not so with this one. With ballet classes, camp, and driver’s ed all canceled on Wednesday and having to scramble to find childcare to pick up the slack, I was definitely cranky when I woke up to nothing more than gray skies and a drizzle.
“WOW, SO GLAD THEY CANCELED EVERYTHING!” I yelled at my coworkers when I finally made it in to the office around 10:30. “I mean, jeez, really?! It rained more LAST WEEK! I didn’t even have to turn my wipers on driving here!”
I ate a moderate snack of crow later when the wind and rain really did pick up, but truly, none of that should matter.
This is the price we pay for living here, and it’s always better to take it seriously than ignore it. And when it turns out to be not so bad, we should be happy, not bitter.
It’s been 12 years since I thought hurricanes were exciting. For several years, I found them absolutely paralyzingly terrifying. Now I’ve almost gone too far in the opposite direction: I see them as an annoyance more than a threat.
This was a wake-up call, a reminder that we’re heading into the most active part of hurricane season.
I’m going to be less annoyed. I’m going to be thankful. I’m not going to take anything for granted.
And I’m going to be praying for a very boring rest of summer.