It was before dawn on Sunday when the water started to rise in the restaurant. In the still-dark morning, the cocoa-brown canal water crept over its banks and rolled down the hill, washed through the weather-worn picnic tables, hesitated at the foundation before cascading in through the cellar door, then the service door, then the front door.
The murky overflow rose in the basement, drowning the prep kitchen, the walk-in coolers, the crawl space with all of our flatware and glassware and t-shirts. It flooded the wine cellar, empty now thanks to the foresight of a manager who had directed a complaining staff of waiters to cart the thousands of bottles two stories up to the satellite cellar.
It flooded the employee bathroom, but that commode was such a tragic chamber that nobody would notice the difference.
This all sounds familiar, right?
This story didn't happen six years ago, and it didn't happen here in New Orleans. It happened last weekend in Kingston, New Jersey.
And fortunately for Carlo and Raoul Momo, the owners of Eno Terra restaurant, they had considered the restaurant's proximity to the Delaware and Raritan Canal – a man-made, now-defunct waterway – and they had purchased sturdy flood insurance.
As I write this, FEMA has depleted its disaster response money. Congress (including some presidential hopefuls) is bickering about whether or not to privatize disaster relief. And the East is smoldering while TD13 is menacing the Gulf Coast.
I'll stop short of entering into a political scree about the public versus private…anything. Because now is not really the best time for it. Since we deal with disasters in a real, as opposed to hypothetical sense, we have to take a different tack. Like watching out for our neighbors, and keeping tabs on family and friends.
If you haven't done so, you can sign up for emergency alerts at NOLAReady.info. The service will send alerts via email and text message with information about emergencies, road closures, shelter locations and more.
You can also sign up as an "evacuteer" at Evacuteer.org. They will train you over a weekend to participate in evacuation measures.
Fortunately, this weekend looks like a minor hiccup in the history of rainstorms, but it never hurts to be prepared.