John Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Windbag full of hurricane tales from Gustav, Ike

My windbag full of hurricane tales includes the following:

What Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey would like for you to know is that the City of Batesville is not being inhospitable by not opening its civic center for hurricane evacuees. The city was criticized in 2005, right after Autrey first took office, and again last week as Mississippi and Louisiana residents again made that northbound journey up I-55.

The Batesville Civic Center cannot receive certification by the American Red Cross to become an approved shelter because it does not have showers for those it would house, Autrey said.

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With certification as an approved Red Cross shelter, the mayor continued, comes the charity’s liability insurance to cover those it houses. Without it, the city would become liable for whatever might happen to anyone sheltered there.

• That said, congratulations and appreciation to those churches, civic clubs, hotels, motels and others in Panola that were able to provide shelter to hurricane evacuees. There is a good chance that your volunteered time and and donated space, food and money kept somebody from sleeping somewhere in their car, or somebody else from having to drive even further for shelter or otherwise put out money they could little afford. The New Orleans media reported that the Gustav evacuation cost the average family $1,000.

That’s a lot of money for a New Orleans family, just like it is a lot of money for a Panola County family.

Your shelter, food and especially your friendship and hospitality meant so much.

And your guests are hoping that they won’t again too soon have to call on your hospitality in the face of Ike.

• The chance of that diminished significantly on Monday, and as Ike tracked west, Entergy officials relocated a planned staging area they had begun on the Batesville Civic Center parking lot to another location in Natchez.

• Ann, our New Orleans friend who evacuated with her family to Baton Rouge as Gustav approached, finally made it back to her house on Friday, very much to her relief.

Her son and daughter-in-law, who live in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, took Ann to her granddaughter’s home in Baton Rouge. Her granddaughter is married to an Indian doctor whose very large extended family also came to their home for refuge.

Her granddaughter owns two elderly cats who are normally the only creatures who share their spacious home. They are overdoted, of course.

And of course, Gustav hit Baton Rouge a much harder lick than it did New Orleans.

Gustav’s aftermath found Ann in the midst of not just strangers but people of a culture quite different from her lifelong New Orleans’ exposure and her granddaughter pacing the house on the verge of tears as she cradled one of the ailing cats in her arms against atypical din within and without.

When Ann’s son learned that his home back and Metairie had power, they relocated. And that’s when Ann got back to her own house.

With Ike’s possible approach, the family faced yet another dilemma. The granddaughter and her doctor husband had reservations for a vacation in Europe starting this week. So her dad, Ann’s son, did what any responsible father would do. He went out and bought a generator to power the window unit air conditioner that he had bought and placed in a window of their already-centrally-air-conditioned home. Now, even if Ike comes, those cats are not likely to face either evacuation or sweltering temperatures.