Back From Gustav Exile
by Larry Lagarde
Well fellow cycling enthusiasts, I'm back from the mandatory evacuation for Hurricane Gustav. I must say it has been an interesting 7 days too.
This time last week, I was leading my family (wife, kids and our cat) north out of New Orleans in 2 cars. As with Katrina, the traffic jams were unbelievable. This time though, all of southern Louisiana was evacuated so there were 2 million people on the roads. We were among many stuck in gridlock in Mississippi on either I-55 or I-59.
With so many people evacuating, finding shelter was tricky. The closest we found was in the Ozark Mountains in northern Arkansas. For those that arrived earlier there that first day, I'm told that the weather was fabulous in Arkansas. Unfortunately, we opted to get to the Ozarks via Memphis so we could visit briefly with family. With the drive to Memphis ballooning into 13+ hours, we got into Memphis just after midnight. I was so fried from the drive and 2 solid days of hurricane preparations that I just went to bed.
The following day, we got a late start. I tracked the storm while my wife caught up with her dad. We finally hit the road again in the early afternoon. Feeding and attending to the kids and 2 cars required frequent stops. Our Garmin GPS also made for some frustrating detours. Eventually, we did make it though to our refuge in the treetops at beautiful Fairfield Bay.
Although I brought my computer along, I hit a major snag trying to go online - there was no internet access. I'd have to drive a few miles to the public library to use a computer; however, with 3 little kids, that was impossible. With little other choice, I simply crossed my fingers hoping that we could return quickly.
As news trickled in about power outages throughout the New Orleans area, it also became clear that the storm was now heading towards Arkansas. If we left immediately, we'd be returning to a home with no power and possible storm damage - not a good idea when you have children. If we stayed, we risked being socked in by rain and floodwaters. We chose the latter.
It rained every day for 4 days straight. The creeks and rivers in Arkansas flooded and the wind blew hard. We really couldn't believe the storm could remain so powerful so far inland.
Sure enough, road closures made it difficult if not impossible to head home. So we stayed until Sunday morning. We returned via US 65, passing flooded cotton fields and oxbow lakes that probably held more water than for decades. We arrived home very late last night. Our fence was down and tree branches littered the lawn but the house was spared.
To those of you that have placed orders during the evacuation, I ask for a bit of patience. I expect that all orders will be fulfilled within the next day or so. Thank God it's over. We pray for those that fall victim to Hurricane Ike and for a quick & quiet end to the hurricane season.