Lessons From Hurricanes 101

Growing up in North Dallas suburbs didn’t equip me with much perspective on hurricanes.

Neither did a dozen years writing and editing out west in San Angelo. There, rain-starved weather watchers look longingly at satellite images of named storms, hoping one might follow just the right path to bring the deluge needed to end drought and replenish reservoirs.

My remedial lessons in weathering hurricanes wouldn’t begin until 2005, the year I moved to Baton Rouge. Experienced South Louisiana residents know what to do before a storm makes landfall. Newcomers get to figure out why the bread aisle is empty at the supermarket.

Hurricane-force winds will change the way you see large, mature trees. Sure, they are good for shade, and perhaps a pecan crop, but that natural beauty also guarantees the power will go out shortly after the first bands of storm arrive. You expect the outage to last a week or longer and are thankful when one of those towering giants crashes down on the fence, instead of on the house.

About an hour’s drive separates Baton Rouge from New Orleans, but images from Hurricane Katrina made them look oceans apart.

A group of editors from Baton Rouge toured New Orleans weeks after the Aug. 29 landfall in 2005. We saw neighborhoods full of empty houses with waterlines above the windows and drove around the Lower Ninth Ward, where it looked like Godzilla had raged through. One house reminded me of Dorothy’s from the Wizard of Oz, but instead of falling on a witch, it had come to rest upon a car.

Of course, all of those areas look very different today, because of residents determined to return and rebuild and the generosity of church groups, nonprofits, and others who committed the time and resources to help it happen.

Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey will need similar support. This month’s paper includes a few examples of the many ways to help. But those are just a starting point.

Let’s resist the urge to let the Texas Gulf Coast slip from our minds as recovery enters rebuilding phases. Though the drive’s a bit longer than the one between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Houston and points south will still make good destinations for mission trips and service projects in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

William Taylor

William Taylor, editor of Park Cities People and Preston Hollow People, shares a name and a birthday with his dad and a love for community journalism with his colleagues at People Newspapers. He joined the staff in 2016 after more than 25 years working for daily newspapers in such places as Alexandria, Louisiana; Baton Rouge; McKinney; San Angelo; and Sherman, though not in anywhere near that order. A city manager once told him that “city government is the best government” because of its potential to improve the lives of its residents. William still enjoys covering municipal government and many other topics. Follow him on Twitter @Seminarydropout. He apologizes in advance to the Joneses for any angry Tweets that might slip out about the Dallas Cowboys during the NFL season. You also can reach him at [email protected]. For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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