Lessons Learned

By TIM BEELAND,

I remember almost everything about August 29, 2005. Where I was, what I was doing, when the power went off, and all of the death and destruction caused by a hurricane named Katrina. After that day it would have been hard to convince me that anyone would ever again try to ride out a major hurricane along the Gulf Coast. I suppose I was wrong.

When the early predictions began making the news concerning catastrophic Hurricane Michael that devastated the Florida Panhandle last week, my thoughts immediately turned to late August 13 years ago and what life in central Mississippi was like in the days following Katrina.

We lived in Rankin County and, like in most all areas affected by that storm, there were long lines for ice and gas and just about any other simple necessity that we so often take for granted. We pretty much lived under our carport for days, cooking on the barbecue grill, drinking out of an ice chest and squinting to see the news on a four inch television plugged into a power converter in the back of my Ford Expedition.

The freezer got cleaned out, the refrigerator got cleaned out, and that grill, as I said, got a good working out. It was difficult but we had it good. Nothing like our friends and neighbors along the Gulf. We can safely say we were blessed.

Katrina claimed the lives of over 1,800 people. A very close friend and business acquaintance lost his sister to the storm, and thousands and thousands suffered outside in the elements of a Mississippi August for months on end.

At the office we had to pack up our computers and drive to our printing plant in Greenwood just to put out the newspaper that week and all along Interstate 55 North from Jackson to my exit on Hwy. 17 in Holmes County folks were living under bridges and on exit ramps, much like we were living under that carport.

The metro area was packed with people from New Orleans to Florida. Some of them still live there today because they had no home to return home too. Certainly the residents of coastal states learned a valuable lesson from Mother Nature, or so we thought.

Just a month and a few days earlier, in July of 2005 my little family was vacationing on the beach in Fort Morgan Alabama when a minimal Category 1 hurricane named Cindy formed in the Gulf. It was supposed to only be a tropical storm and no one advised us to evacuate, so we didn’t. After being awakened in the middle of the night by the howling winds that caused our little house on stilts to shudder and shake, and watching the sand dunes disappear as the ocean crept up beneath us, we wished we had left while we still could. In the end we survived...and we learned.

Since Hurricane Michael made landfall last Wednesday and took Hurricane Katrina’s place as the third-most  intense hurricane to ever make landfall on the United States and we have again found ourselves glued to the television screen — this one much larger and easier to see than the one in 2005, and it is also in the comfort of an air conditioned living room, but much of what we see is the same. Total devastation.

We learned our lesson after little ole Cindy and it was totally reaffirmed after Katrina. I wish that more people had heeded the warnings last week as Michael quickly approached and I hope and pray that those missing will be found safe, but likely some more will not.

I wish people didn’t have to “learn” lessons the hard way, but sometimes we do. Hopefully those that survived Michael will remember their lessons, as the more fortunate among us have done, when the storms of the future roll in.