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What Happens After: Observations on Hurricane Katrina

Just a few notes about my experiences with Hurricane Katrina a year later. On the evening that Katrina passed our retreat, my partner and I began to make our way back to our homes (less than 30 miles) and businesses to secure them – (both firearms related). We chose to take different routes, him on foot, and me in my truck with my dogs & supplies. The routes required pushing and/or cutting trees, poles, fences and all manner of lines and debris from the road ways. The few roads that could be made passable with chain saws and simple tools tended to concentrate people and vehicles. While resting between swinging a chain saw (several folks were taking turns) one of my dogs (the cur) became highly agitated. Knowing her reputation for correctly gauging people I got a good grip on my [Model] 1911. As my truck window was already down (heat and humidity were horrible) I watched a character approach – he was intently looking into each vehicle he passed. Once he reached my truck he approached the driver’s side and wanted to buy gas that I was carrying (having it in the open was a mistake). I explained that it was not for sale – I would need it when I got home. Then he became very belligerent and indicated that he was going to take it to get to New Orleans. It became clear that the situation was critical, some with well practiced motion I introduced him to the 1911, at which point he wisely elected to be somewhere else. I realized that safety was off and I had taken up slack on on the trigger – I had committed to use deadly force in a split second, right or wrong. The event did diffuse the situation immediately and efficiently. It took 12 + hours to traverse less than 30 miles in the truck. My partner made the trip by hiking and catching a ride in less than 4 hours.
Over the period of the next few days the world took on a totally different aspect. We were under martial law – no firearms, ammunition,or alcohol and a sunset to sunrise curfew. As both our businesses were firearms related there was the need for a degree of security around the clock. The local law enforcement was stretched so thin as to be of no response value. As we are just north of the Mississippi/Louisiana border, the community grew from 12,000 to around 51,000 in a few days. Having prepared (largely in part to your novel “Patriots” [1]) we were able to meet those whom chose not to observe the curfew, and probe the “edges”, in a decisive manner. Generators helped light one of the businesses, but they are very noisy, so we had to depend on the dogs. In the other we chose to be completely dark, and depend on the dogs for early warning.
We learned that a schedule for sleep, chores, eating, and duty helped offset the elevated “wired” condition. In the planning I chose a home with a “artesian” free flowing well (~ 3-5 psi) , however without power for wells many folks uncapped free flowing wells in the area stopping the flow due to the relieved pressure points. Some municipal water was available on a limited basis. Water quality was a concern. With temperatures in the mid to high nineties and humidity there as well water for animals and electrolytes for people were hugely importantly (those containing sugar were not as effective, and seemed to be harmful).
We came through fine, and the lessons learned have been incorporated. Electricity took 17 days to [be restored to] my home and phone service [restoration] 10 weeks. No local government help was in evidence for five days. Almost all of the supplies and relief in the first few days came through the local churches (they were and still are the most effective distribution system). During events like these dealing with otherwise good people has severely changed our approach to people and denial. Some where near 80% of the people in the area are still not making any preparations against significant events. The mental toll it has taken on the community is still visible today.
Lessons Learned:
1. Carry what you need but keep as much out of sight as possible
2. Expect to have to dissuade those whom feel entitled to your supplies
3. The aspect of deadly force is an effective deterrent – be prepared to use it or abandon your provisions
4. Know and pay attention to your early warning systems – animal or electronic
5. Big dogs, and alert dogs are a great help
6. Practice, shoot, practice, plan, practice
The bottom line is, that in any event, there are unforeseen consequences. The time that you set down with your group and define what, when, and where will be of paramount value. Understand that some of the group may not make it (some of ours was trapped far away) the rest can and will have the resources available, and take up the slack, until such a time that all can join up. I do laugh easier, shoot more and plan more effectively now. Remember: technology may help but your brain will save your life! – DGS