Those of us who live in South Louisiana know quite a bit about the hurricanes that churn up in the Gulf of Mexico.  I have lived through several of them, even slept through some of them.  Until now, unless I got that certain funny feeling in the pit of my stomach, I didn't even get nervous.  I should have been alerted when oil companies started evacuating workers from the rigs and platforms in the Gulf in the last days of September.  I should have begun getting nervous, I guess, when hurricane warnings were posted from east Texas and all across Louisiana to the Mississippi coast.  But, oh, no!  I didn't have that funny feeling in the pit of my stomach which would have told me that this storm was a bad one.  Well, so much for this woman's intuition.

I was going to ride out the storm in my house with my two cats, but my children insisted that I evacuate with them to Anna and Rock's house in south Lafayette.  I could have refused to leave my house, but then they would have been over there, worrying about Mom alone in Abbeville.  So I rode with Mary and Jay when they went to Lafayette late Wednesday afternoon.  Some of my strong sons-in-law helped me up the steps when we got there.

Louise and Kerry and their family had already left to go to north Louisiana, hauling their camper with them.  They ended up in the parking lot of a little Baptist church somewhere around Shreveport.  Robbie and Jo hauled their camper to Texas.  Danny was in Alaska at work, but Carlene loaded up her kids and her mom, and took off for Texas, too.  David's family was not in danger, because they live over by New Orleans at LaPlace.  (They had already been flooded when Hurricane Isidore came through there the week before.)  The rest of us were all at Anna and Rock's, along with some exotic birds in cages, a cute little hamster in a cage, several cats and about four small dogs.  I had left my two adult cats at home, locked in the house.  Chris and Nehemiah and Chris's fiancee, Tara, stayed behind in Abbeville in Butch's sturdy house on Meaux's Lane "to hold down the house," while he was at Anna's with his two children.  Darlyne and Walyn and their son, Cadon, stayed in their house in Abbeville, too.  Tomi decided he would stay in Delcambre, and Teddy thought he should stay with him, but Cissi evacuated to Anna and Rock's.

There were mattresses and pallets spread all over the place, and I slept quite comfortably in a tilted-back recliner in the living room.  While we chowed down on sandwiches, chips, soft drinks and other "picnic" foods, we watched weather reports on the television.  Anna and Rock went around checking to see that everyone was as comfortable as possible.  Laurie kept everyone laughing and in good spirits with her clowning.  If you have to ride out a hurricane, that girl is a good one to have around.  Joy and JoBeth kept me supplied with bananas, chips and candy.  They were taking care of MawMaw.  Butch and his son Joey, whom I call my "Muscle Man," were there to help me when I had to get up out of that recliner.  Later in the evening, Teddy and then Tomi finally showed up, and poor Cissi was so relieved to see her "men folk."  It had been predicted that Delcambre might be in the way of a ten to fifteen-foot tidal wave.

It was Thursday morning before we lost power (and air conditioning), but we had a battery radio that supplied weather bulletins, so we were still okay, except for the excessive heat.  It was about eleven, I think, when the radio warned us to find shelter in a hallway or bathroom, but before anyone had time to move, we heard a crashing sound, as if a tree had fallen onto the house.   You should have seen the skid marks!  Everyone was rushing to get into the hall.  I looked up and saw white powder sifting down from between the ceiling tiles, which had been dislodged.  Suddenly Anna screamed, "Mama!  Mama!"  In their rush to get to the hallway, they had forgotten about me.  Some of them came rushing back to get me out of the recliner, and with the help of my walker, I got into the dining room.  They insisted that I should stay in the hall, where Laurie had piled a bunch of pillows to further protect the children.  Me!  And I was the oldest one in the bunch!  By that time, the children had calmed down and stopped hollering and crying. Laurie was reading to them verses from the Bible and leading them in singing songs that they all knew.

The crash we'd heard was the sound of the  front porch roof breaking away, as the wind peeled it back and sent it flying over the house.  Except for the piece that hit Butch's new truck, which was sitting in the driveway, that porch roof was scattered all over "the south forty."  When the wind tore the roof from the porch, about three boards from the outer wall of the house went with it.  Whipping rain was pouring into the house.  Anna, trying to be brave, remarked, "I always wanted a waterfall in my living room and bed room!"  As the ceiling tiles, heavy with water from the rain, began dropping, the cracking noise they made as they hit the floor, sounded like rifle shots.  It was startling, to say the least.  By evening, the living room and front bedroom were soaked and the carpet was already beginning to smell not so nice.  After things had calmed down enough and the wind was not so strong any more, the men went out to survey the damage.  That was when they discovered that a piece of the porch roof had landed on Butch's new truck.  Some of the other vehicles also had minor damage.

Anna has an electric stove, which was useless with the power out, so supper was cooked out in the carport.  They fixed smoked sausage with veggies in Jay's Cajun wok, and barbecued some chicken on a small pit.  Mary served me a big plate of the sausage and veggies with bread, and before the chicken was done, I had gone to sleep, my old tummy full.  We slept pretty well, even though it was very hot.  You don't miss your air conditioner until you don't have it!

The storm was over by Friday morning, and Mary fixed scrambled eggs in a big skillet on a little Coleman stove set up in the garage.  I was helped outside and sat on Anna's swing for a while and surveyed the awesome damage.  The paint on Mary's and Laurie's cars was blown off in some places.  The siding on the house next door was all pitted and holey where debris had whipped against it.  An old footed bathtub out by the back fence, which had been used for a goldfish pond, had been moved over a few feet and a tree against the fence has split in two before it fell.  Butch got some plastic bags and "silver" tape and tried to fix his truck to keep the rain out.

Anna's daughter, Dawn, brought me home about noon, and I was quite upset when I saw my little old cabin!  Two large trees, an oak and an elm, had been uprooted and had landed on top of the house.  We cleared a path to the front door and I let my cats, Cleo and Patric, out.  Poor babies, they were so traumatized by this horrendous experience, they still refuse to sleep in the house.  They come in only to eat and drink and to let me talk to them and pet them a little bit every day.

Chris and Tara had joined us Friday morning, and after Chris had helped to tack plastic across the front of Anna's house, he and his brother, Nehemiah, climbed onto the roof of my house and, with chain saws, began removing the big branches that were lying all across the roof.  A whole crew of helpers were on the ground, hauling debris away and piling it at the roadside for the Parish trucks to pick up.  After the roof of the house was cleared, we could see that Pop's shop, attached to the house, had suffered the most damage.  In fact, it had been totally demolished.  The east wall of the kitchen was shoved in by the weight of the trees.  The wall paneling was popped off, and the back door is jammed shut.  There was only one break in the roof, right over my bedroom, and Robbie has already repaired that.  Some of the rafters on the front porch were cracked in two, so when Butch re-hung my swing, he moved it over a few feet.  

Of course, we had no power for several days, but a kind neighbor brought in a line from his generator and I was able to plug in my freezer and a fan.  Everything in my fridge was lost, but that was no "biggy."  I was concerned about all that venison and other game that  Robbie had in the chest freezer.  I was so happy when power was restored and I could get on my computer.  For several days, that was how I kept up with my favorite "soaps" and the news.

You may ask why I call this "The Miracle of Hurricane Lili."  Let me explain.  This "lady" was coming at us with almost Category 4 strength, winds at 145 miles per hour.  Just before it churned into the mouth of Vermilion Bay, somehow it suddenly dropped to 100 miles per hour before it got to Marsh Island.  All of the weathermen were stunned, but I see the Hand of God in that.  If He had not slowed the winds down, there would be no Abbeville today.  And there was no loss of human life due to the hurricane, either.  Another miracle!

I heard a story the other day that I feel may be related.  I think it was in the mid-1960s that Hurricane Hilda struck.  I remember that our son, David was in the National Guard at the time.  The force of the winds toppled the water tower in Erath, and it fell onto the police station, crushing the seven men that were manning the emergency station that had been set up there.  The National Guardsmen who were out trying to help people, rushed to the scene, but Mr. Bob LeBlanc, the commanding officer, would not let David get out of the truck.  He said, "Meaux, you are too young to see something like this!"  Soon after this terrible hurricane, Mrs. Monique Broussard, a woman of great faith, decided that she wanted to do something to protect Vermilion Parish from another such storm.  She gathered together many, many blessed Miraculous medals, and she and her son (who is now a priest) went all around the Parish, burying Miraculous medals.  Maybe Miz Monique's medals helped to save us this time.

23 October 2002

Copyright © 2002  Aline T. Meaux, Abbeville, LA

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