Saturday, September 06, 2008

FEMA's Here, Now I'm Relaxed

There is an article in the Baton Rouge paper, The Advocate, that discusses how FEMA has setup a blue roof program . This is where FEMA comes out and puts blue tarps on your roof to keep the rain out. They are still in the process of setting up. News flash, the storm was Monday, it rained Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. If you didn't tart your roof, your house is already ruined. I'm glad to see it's Saturday, 5 days after the storm and FEMA is "setting up". In emergencies, if you don't take your own problems and tackle them yourselves, you are going to be disappointed in the results. FEMA does some wonderful things after the storm and offers money for different projects but waiting 5 days after the event is not acceptable. Remember, go get the tarps before you need them.

US Mail, UPS and FedEx are up and running. Most people were getting service by Wednesday. The Advoacte printing press has no power and the paper is being printed in Mobile, AL and shipped in. For you detectives out there, think about this. The State paper, the paper in the capital city, the 2nd largest paper in the state before Katrina - largest now, can't get power to the printing press. You don't think those people are connected? There can be only one answer - you can't get power to the press because the power outage is so severe there isn't a way to do it.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Stop Eating My Food and Taking My Gas

Before I get started on the real rant, I need to get side-tracked. I talked yesterday about the lack of media coverage about Gustav. Today I was made painfully aware of how clueless the media is. Someone I know who works on Wall Street and follows the energy sector had no clue as to why we weren't answering our phone. I was told by several friends out of state how little coverage this event had but I had no clue until I started calling around. Folks, we are in dire straights. No power, few stores are open. Forget about Hanna, Gustav hit square on.

Now, back to the real rant. Baton Rouge was a great haven for many people from New Orleans after Katrina. Many people evacuated New Orleans and came to Baton Rouge for Gustav. Had I lived in the New Orleans area, I would have left as well. Gustav spared New Orleans. New Orleans has power, water and sewage. It is time to leave. Stop consuming my limited supplies and go back home. My neighborhood, though without power, is packed with out of town people. If you are from Terrebonne or Lafourch, please stay, otherwise go back where you came from. We have limited resources.

I'm happy to say that there were more stores open today. My two favorite stores - Hebert Guns and Mary Lee Donuts came back online today. Unfortunately, there were no chocolate donuts but there were hot glazed. I'll put Mary Lee up against Krispy Creame any day. There were no gas lines, but people that haven't been paying attention are still freaking out.

School is not starting Monday because someone finally came to terms with the fact that you can't have school when there is no power. Flats - I've gotten two flats this week. I think the debris will cause the tire stores to do a booming business this month.

The curfew has been lifted in Ascension Parish and does not start until 10:00pm now. I'm glad Ascension is like the real united states and lets us drive and walk around without papers.

I saw people buying generators today. Who doesn't have a generator by now that needs one? No gas cans are available without waiting in long lines. I finally saw some of the so called "transmission lines" that were down. Entergy needs to get on the ball and actually fix some of these things.

Concerning Generators

Last night seemed to be the breaking point for generators. Several people I knew had generators stop working. Many of the larger generators that you purchase at Home Depot or Lowes have a low oil sensor and will shutdown if the oil dips below a certain amount. Make sure you have oil ahead of time so you can add some to get out of the emergency.

As fate would have it, our generator started acting up right before bedtime. I was able to get it working by leaving the choke 1/2 open. Once it was light I ended up doing a full maintenance on it. Most generators have maintenance at 20, 50 and 100 hours. This one has been running about 80 hours since Monday. I'm sure other people are well over the 100 hour mark. After changing the oil, cleaning the spark arrestor, cleaning the spark plug and doing a full carburetor cleaning, it was back in good shape.

Note to anyone who might need to rely on one: Get oil, spark plug, fuel filter (if equipped), and some carburetor cleaner. It may be the difference between having power or not. I didn't consider running on generator past the maintenance cycle. If you do not know how to get to your carburetor, have someone show you. I'm not a mechanic but could easily open a small engine repair shop after this event.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Where is the Media?

The media is still bitter about not having anyone in New Orleans for Katrina. They have pretty much packed up and gone home. The latest statistic I heard on the radio today was that there was more power outages from Gustav than from Katrina. I don't think the media likes the fact that New Orleans was spared and has refused to cover Baton Rouge adequately. I've talked to many people outside the state who are unaware that 90% of Baton Rouge does not have power. Today I learned that Rapides Parish - Alexandria is flooding and many areas do not have power. I guess we'll have to go back to being unprepared to get the proper attention. They are still focusing on New Orleans as if nothing else matters. Don't get me wrong, Katrina forever changed the crescent city but Baton Rouge, Terrebonne, Lafourche, etc. deserve their coverage. I'm going to pay a few people to dig a moat around their house and get on the roofs. A picture sent in to CNN should get Anderson Cooper out here.

The power situation is dismal. Demco and Entergy have up to the minute coverage of their customers without power. Demco has a nice map at and Entergy has more of the corporate bs site at . Around town earlier today I was shocked at the lack of progress. Still not a light in Prairieville. I went into Gonzales and found the corner of Airline and Burnside lit up but nowhere else. There is still nothing on Seigen Lane that has power except the traffic light at Airline Highway. I know they have a plan, but it isn't obvious to the casual observer. College Drive seems to have power close to the Interstate. That will make the Ruth's and Ninfa's crowds happy (both are now open). The estimates are 7-14 days for many areas.

Traffic is a beast. All of the lights out causes a 20 minute drive to be an hour. It is unbelievable how long it takes to use the city streets. The gas lines seemed much shorter today and there were a few more stations carrying fuel. Still not much opened. Other than a handful of hardware stores, the majority of places are closed. I'm sure it is the lack of power but it is causing the hording mentality. I think many of the people shopping for food are shopping because there are so few places open.

Curfews. I mentioned this briefly but are we living in Russia? There is a strict 8:00pm to 6:00am curfew in Baton Rouge. It's 10:00pm to 6:00am in Ascension Parish. I understand they don't want people driving around at night because it isn't safe but if you are going to get gas, I think it is a valid excuse. Not according to the Baton Rouge Mayor and others. Work or medical emergency are about the only excuses they will accept. I haven't been able to find anyone who has been pulled over but I have talked to several people who have seen people pulled over.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Am I the Only Person Who Took Drivers Ed?

When all traffic lights are out, the intersection becomes a 4-way stop, regardless of how "you" think it should work. I'm seeing at least 2 wrecks every time I leave the house. It is always at an intersection. People do not understand the concept of a 4-way stop. I stopped at a light last night and actually had someone honk at me to keep going. The large intersections with multiple turn lanes are the most dangerous. I can't tell if it is incompetence or a lack of caring. How to handle an intesection with no power to the traffic lights was one of the first things we learned in drivers education when I was 15. Another concern is the dreaded flashing yellow light in one direction and flashing red in another. People tend to want to stop at the yellow light which is also incorrect. If you must go out, pick the smaller intersections if possible when planning your route

School is cancelled in all the surrounding areas of Baton Rouge until Monday. In some Parishes (Terrebonne and Lafourche) it is cancelled indefinitely. Power continues to be a problem. I found a total of 4 traffic lights working on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge. Few businesses had power although the Mall of LA was up and running by mid-morning. I could find no signs of electricity anywhere in Ascension Parish - Gonzales and Prairieville included. The explanations vary but it has something to do with the transmission lines from the power plants to the substations. This is something that was identified as a problem by the energy companies after Katrina but no funding at the Federal or State level has been provides so nothing was done. I'm concerned because, I don't see power on at many of the sub-stations. Major intersections in Baton Rouge have no sighs of power at the businesses or the traffic lights.

Denham Springs is getting its power back and may be one of the better off cities in the areas. I found 6 gas stations opened in Baton Rouge. Lines are ridiculously long and are adding to the traffic issues. People seem reasonably patient. Late in the afternoon I found 3 opened in Prairieville. All are running off of generators. We finally broke down and got some gas as well as re-filled one of the 5 gallon containers. Gas is in good supply but until power is restored it is going to be a little like Soviet era Russia.

There are some groceries open. Like the gas stations, most are running off of generator power. The smaller ones let people in but the larger ones limit the number of people who can go inside at one time. I saw long lines at Alberston's and Wallmart. I also saw a long line at the Whole Foods store. I don't really consider Whole Foods a "basic necessity" type store and chuckled at the people waiting to buy their $40 cheese and caviar to restock their hurricane pantry.

I'm becoming an expert at cleaning generator carburetors out. People need to realize that they need to drain them or at least store them with fuel stabilizer. I have found that the barter system is alive and well. People pay you back with bread, gas, chainsaw use etc. It has restored some of my faith in my fellow man.

Generator sales continue to be the hot ticket. Lots of people didn't by them during/after Katrina and they are paying the price. Both Lowes and Home Depot get shipments daily. They must be boxing them up so quickly that they don't have time to print the boxes and they all come in a generic cardboard box. Estimates are the power could be off for as much as 4 weeks for 1/2 Baton Rouge. As of yesterday morning there were still 4 hospitals running off of generator power. By the end of the day it had dropped to 3.

We ventured out last night to get fuel. Driving at night is dangerous as people aren't stopping at the traffic lights. I guess people assume the driving laws are suspended at night. There is a reasonable amount of law enforcement out but they tend to be at the stores and gas stations to keep the peace. I was able to use debit or credit cards. It appears that the banking issues that Katrina caused are not nearly as severe for Gustav. At least one industry took the crisis seriously.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

My Nieghbors Are Vampires

Folks, sorry for the lack of posts today but it was a busy day. I started out with a warm feeling in the middle of the night. Actually, it was late in the early morning. No stars last night. You would think with the lack of light that you could see the stars but there were nothing but clouds. Still, without the sounds of the neighborhood, you would think it would be peaceful. Instead you heard the sound of generators all night and day. Look, I'm not trying to endorse a product, but you need to understand a few things about generators. Price and watts are what most people shop for. Granted, these are important features, but quality of power, noise and gas consumption are equally important. I use a Honda EU2000i. I don't need more power than 2000 watts. It runs a window unit AC at night and keeps the refrigerators nice and cool during the day. I can't hear my own generator in my bedroom, but I can hear my neighbors. It's also light enough (52 lbs) that my wife can set it up. More importantly, it runs most of the day on a gallon of gas. It can run the AC unit for about 6 hours. Hence the reason it was warm when I woke up. The AC had kicked off. I filled the tank and managed to sleep for another hour. 2 gallons of gas per day. My neighbors filled up their tank 4 times. My brother in-law used 4 gallons, every 8 hours. Yes, the Honda's cost more, but when there is no gas and you actually want to sleep, the money is worth every penny, err dollar.

I started early to get a chainsaw from a friend. I don't have trees on my property, which is why I don't own a chainsaw. Unfortunately, my back neighbor's tree decided to pay a visit. Since we were expecting 6 inches of rain, I decided it would be best to remove it from the drainage ditch. It took me a while to get over to my friends house. The back way out of the neighborhood was blocked. It wasn't until I made it out on one of the main highways that I realized how bad other had it. There were 5 houses in a row that each had a tree crash through the roof. One was so bad, I was concerned someone had been hurt. Fortunately everyone was OK.

Next I noticed not one traffic light had power. My true test of how bad the storm was is to see if Walmart or McDonald's are open. Neither were. People were reasonably polite and all seemed to understand the concept of a 4-way stop. It's strange, but this was one of the first things I learned in drivers ed, but most people can't manage a stop light that is out. They can't manage giving you change either. Order something at a fast food restaurant for $5.23 and give them $10.28. See what happens.

On the way over, I couldn't believe the amount of trees and signs that were down. On the way back, I stopped at my brother-in-laws house. Since he has Nextel, the phones didn't work. He was fine but had some serious roof issues. I told him I had plenty of tarps and that I would be back after cutting some trees. By the time I was back a nice neighbor had come with a chainsaw and cleared most of the Oak tree blocking the street out of the way. There were stories of neighbors coming out of their houses to help clear the debris. I was excited as I took my borrowed chainsaw and began cutting the tree out of the ditch. Not one neighbor. Not even the ones whose backyard it was actually in. They watched as me and my wife and kids hauled everything out. It was at this point that my wife mentioned that she had finally identified the strangeness she couldn't put her finger on. They were vampires. Remember, the picking up of garbage cans and other items in the middle of the night in a previous post. I told her I would take it under consideration but felt she was onto something.

It was at this point, I realized that in a crisis there were two types of people. I have a friend who likes to point out that everyone only has two types of people in there examples. While I usually consider other points of view, in this case, there really are only two types of people. There are those who realize we are in a crisis and fix there own issues and help other people and those who can't cope and stay in their own world. Sometime they interact with you to get some additional information or help from you, but for the most part they are useless in a crisis.

I left to help my brother-in-law and put tarps up over his roof. I'm adding tarps to my emergency prepared list. Probably not something if you live in earthquake country, but if you live anywhere that wind, rain or ice can occur, get some. Also have some wood - 2x4s work but 1x4 are perfectly acceptable. Have some nails that will go through the wood and your roof. I camp a lot and have many different sizes. They sure came in handy today. Since there were no stores open, I realized these were valuable commodities. They are cheap and you can use them for many other purposes. Go out and get some today.

When I dropped off the chainsaw I noticed that there were no lights on and that people were getting ruder. I found 2 gas stations open (must have generators) and long lines (200+ cars). I didn't bother stopping, as I didn't need the gas and figured if someone was willing to wait that long, they must really need it. There were no stores open.

One thing I noticed and discussed with several people was the fact that hurricanes ignore the bell curve and other patterns of grouping as far as damage goes. It is not a matter of "that neighborhood was damaged". You can have 100 houses with damage and 1 that has nothing or you can have the converse. We were lucky, many people in our neighborhood were not. One house I saw had a chimney impailed in a patio cover.

I'm going to get some scoop on Baton Rouge recovery and power tomorrow. Lafourche Parish opened this afternoon, but Terrebonne remains closed. We never got the 6 inches of rain, 1/2 maybe.

We grilled a nice dinner outside. A cool wind was blowing. After the sun had set stars started to come out. As dusk was becoming dark, I saw two bats darting around. My wife stated "see, I rest my case".

And Now For the Real Story

Still looks like the max winds in Baton Rouge area were 91 mph. There are unconfirmed reports of 100+ mph. Every report is that this is the most damage that Baton Rouge has seen ever.

I managed to get a report from St. Mary Parish. 100% has no power. This includes Morgan City, Baldwin, Berwick, Franklin and Patterson. Many residents stayed. Fortunately, they did not get the 120 mph winds for the 12 hour period that was predicted. No word on the extent of the damage but it could have been much worse.

Major damage in Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes. This included Thibodaux and Houma. "There isn't a house that doesn't have damage" is how it was put to me. I'm sure this may not turn out to be literal, but it illustrates the massive amount of damage. Those Parishes had minimal damage after Katrina. I asked about flooding and could not get a straight answer. There was definitely significant water, but not sure about flooding. I know that Terrebonne is completely closed off. These two Parishes plus Plaquemines will be the ones to watch.

Monday, September 01, 2008


The early reports are in. 75 mph with 91 mph gusts. That beats every hurricane to affect Baton Rouge except Betsy from the 60's. My neighborhood has one less oak tree now. Although damaged by wind, it looks like a bolt of lightening hit it and split it in two. Took out a fence and street lamp. Reports in Convent Louisiana are 96 mph.

There are many shingles and siding damage. Much more than Katrina and Rita. Gustav has forced a mandatory curfew In the Baton Rouge area until 6:00am Tuesday morning. You can wander around your neighborhood, but you cannot drive around and site see.

Early reports are that the downed trees and power lines is higher than expected. There is concern in Ascension Parish about flooding around Hwy 42 closer to the Amite river. Lake Maurepas is expecting to surge close to midnight. The concern is that they won't get to the pumps in time to prevent the flooding. Yes, it's true, there are areas that use pumps in Louisiana besides New Orleans.

I'm trying to get the inside scoop on the rumor that the Levee in Plaquemines Parish is about to breach and they are doing an evacuation.

Where Are Brad and Angelina?

It's interesting to see all the celebrities fixing and donating after the fact. I didn't see any filling sandbags before the storm. Interesting. I'm sure they will be available for still shots later this week. I guess the film festival is more important than helping your neighbors.

The wind and rain is definitely beating Baton Rouge and surrounding areas much harder than Katrina or Rita. I can't get an exact read but it is greater than 50 mph. No significant damage around the neighborhood. A few fences and trees are down. There are also shingles all over the yards. No leaks in the attic. It is supposed to beat down on us for another 3 hours.

I saw someone driving in the neighborhood - moron. There has been at least one fatality of someone driving and crashing into a tree. There is a rumor about someone driving by the outlet mall in Gonzales and their car being hit by a tree but I cannot confirm it. I know of two friends who had trees go down and hit their neighbors car. One neighbor is in Europe, so they will have a nice surprise when they get back.

Some Wind and Rain

So far just some wind 10-20 mph and some rain. Nothing too bad yet. The drainage is keeping up with the amount of rain. Looks like the storm is weakening. We should see serous rain and wind around noon.

The coastal areas like Grand Isle and Venice are getting 70+ mph and lots and lots of rain.

I'll try to keep this up most of the day.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Neighbor Must Read My Blog

I just went out to "clear some debris" out of my neighbors backyard and all of the stuff on his patio has been picked up and put away. He must have come home to tie up a few loose ends.

Latest word is that we are looking at a Cat 3. In Ascension Parish, we will get lower sustained winds than some places but higher gusts. Additionally, the rain could be greater than 8 inches. Looks like St. Mary and Terrebonne Parishes are going to get 100+ winds. We'll see.

Funny what keeps you up at night. I'm burning the last two years of photos to DVD.

Storm Before the Calm

I hate mowing grass. I don't like talking about it, I don't like doing it. For some reason a Louisiana tradition is to talk about cutting grass. To leave home early to cut grass. To ask people if they cut their grass. Today I found myself trying to finish work and personal items so I would have time to "cut the grass" before Gustav hit.

We were up early this morning doing the final preparations. Lots of people going to church early, much earlier than normal. Airline Highway had the lights set to yellow flashing to flow with traffic and red flashing to cross. Not much traffic at 7:15am. By 8:45 however, there was moderate traffic for a Sunday. You could tell some was just people running errands, and some was people leaving New Orleans. There were State Troopers and sometimes Sheriff vehicles at many intersection. I-12 was empty as it isn't a key route to evacuate Baton Rouge. Not sure about I-10 as I didn't make it over there.

Lots of people getting gas and groceries but everyone seemed to be civilized. I did see one moron filling six 5-gallon gas cans wrapped in cellophane in the bed of his truck. I guess he doesn't watch youtube. Static electricity and gas fumes don't mix. I left quickly figuring I would hear about him on the news.

When we managed to get back into the neighborhood, I found what looked like a massive party. Trucks with boats and trailers and people everywhere. The Katrina look and feel was there as most driveways had multiple cars from evacuees.

We managed to straighten out the garage to begin putting all of the patio furniture, grill, smoker, etc into the garage. This time, I organized the garage into areas where I could get to things I might need. We noticed that my neighbor left with his garbage can out and a back patio full of potted plants and a landscape wagon. Now, I have that to worry about blowing into my house. It's going to be a shame when someone steals it later tonight. He won't find any of it. I'll tell him it blew away, which technically will be true.

Late in the afternoon, I kept looking at the clouds and noticing a wind increasing. Back to the mowing of the lawn... As much as mowing was the last thing on my mind, I knew that if I didn't I would regret it. This time of year, Louisiana has the climate of a modest jungle and grass grows by the foot each week. I began to mow and the weather looked like it wasn't going to cooperate. I couldn't believe bands of the storm were already here but they were. Thankfully I finished and put the lawn mower up last.

I managed to finish and took a look at the latest coordinates and realized that we had plenty of time to prep. One thing about Louisiana is that we love our food and our alcohol. It was Sunday and I was hoping it wasn't too late to get some daiquiris for the storm. I called two of our favorite stops and they were closed. I mean, Home Depot and Walmart were open, what were they thinking? Missed business opportunity if you ask me. Finally I found one, the closest one to the house ironically, and set out to get a gallon. When I got there, the parking lot was packed. Clearly the regular clientele had no intentions of preparing for the storm and was having a typical night. After making the purchase, I drove home figuring that it might be the last daiquiri for more than a week.

It was at the point that I realized the steaks would be tough to grill with the grill in the garage behind 10 feet of other items. Fortunately, I'm a camper and managed to dig out a small grill and propane tank and setup an emergency grilling station. The daiquiri definately was the ticket to cool off while cooking some nice steaks for what I dubbed "the last supper".

Tornado watch tonight. It missed us but the outer bands are starting to cause some havoc. Combine it with the normal late afternoon thunder storms this time of year and it is a bad combination. It looks like we'll have rain tonight but no heavy winds until about 10:00am. Noon until 5:00pm is where the really bad stuff will happen. Of course everything is subject to change.