Anyone who lives in Hurricane Land (the Gulf Coast) knows this drill: you’ve had a big storm, the whole world was interested for a hot minute while it was on the national news, and then some politician does something stupid or the bottom falls out of the housing market and the plight of hundreds of thousands of people without power is forgotten because of the new *bright shiny thing*.
Feeling sad and alone, without power, lacking the ability to control the temp in your house, your freezer full of thawing/rotting food, your digital devices down to single digit power levels and your candles just pitiful little nubbins about to abandon you altogether, you sink lower and lower on the beleaguered scale and start making plans to move to Connecticut. And then, just when you were about to give up hope, you see them, the Post-Hurricane Power Angels.
Trucks, big, strong, sturdy, beautiful trucks, barrelling down the highway in a convoy, filled with workers loaded for bear and ready to slay the dragons of downed power lines to bring the lights back on for the people.
When we saw these magical trucks after 2008’s Hurricane Ike turning into our neighborhood after being without power for 10 days, we rejoiced. Literally. We waved our arms and cheered and offered blessings for them, their families, their pets and even their goldfish. We wanted to offer them bottled water, beer, and cookies, but of course, we had none of those essentials, it being post-hurricane and all.
We are in this same position once again, rejoicing and praising the Power Angels. Just this week, around two million homes across five states lost power due to Hurricane Zeta. Did you know? Zeta wasn’t a big, flashy storm that came in and stayed a while, but it made its unwelcome presence known, like a skunk. You don’t really see the critter, but you know it was there long after it scarpers off. The power outages are just a tiny piece of the story – downed trees, extensive property damage, business closures and loss of life are also in the wake left by Hurricane Zeta.
Our little vacation home that we call Gumbo Cove is in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and has only been part of our family since July of last year. It’s a lovely little place, but feels like a hurricane magnet.
Gumbo Cove, like most of the Gulf Coast, has been in the project path of a hurricane or tropical storm more than half a dozen times this year. We had some flooding during Cristobal earlier in the season, and some scares that became near misses since then. Zeta was the one that got us. We aren’t complaining, though, because we “have it good” compared to the folks in Lake Charles, Louisiana, who had two hits with Hurricanes Laura and Delta, in the span of just six weeks. That one-two sucker punch will linger for a long, long time as the residents in Lake Charles and the surrounding areas try to pick up the pieces. In fact, I’m glad Zeta hit us instead of them. Three times would definitely not have been the charm.
So we find ourselves tonight at a Comfort Inn in Slidell, LA, about 40 minutes west of Gumbo Cove. It’s our home base for a few days while we do some preliminary cleanup on the way back to normal at Gumbo Cove. We can’t stay there because the power is still out. Gumbo Cove had roof damage and the “below decks” area is a mess, but there’s no catastrophic damage, and everything will be just fine when we get it cleaned up. That’s what this weekend trip is about.
It was really hard to get a hotel reservation, because many places in Louisiana and Mississippi still don’t have power, and the ones that do are housing the Power Angels, those workers who are committed to getting the lights back on and who have come from all over to do just that. We learned this from the nice Australian guy at the front desk who checked us in. It was just before 7 p.m., and the parking lot was empty, although a sign on the door broadcasted the Sold Out status. When we asked about it, the clerk told us that the majority of the rooms were booked for power company workers, who’d be arriving soon since darkness had fallen and their work would be completed for the day.
We scurried out for a quick dinner, rushing to get there before the thousands of Power Angels jammed up the restaurants, but we needn’t have bothered, because we weren’t going to the same places. When we got back, the parking lot was full of power trucks.
Workers were gathering around a couple of these trucks, and it looked like there was going to be a Tailgate Party-type dinner, with large bags of fast food from a couple of the adjacent establishments. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to thank these tireless workers for their service. One of my high school mates is a lineman, and I always think of him when I see the trucks and the workers. He’s an awesome human, and answers the call of duty whenever it comes. Just like these men.
It was well after 8:00, and they were just about to have dinner. They were so gracious about posing in a picture for me, though. I asked about their start time tomorrow: “5:00 a.m., we show up at the staging area and get our tickets.”
Do they get overtime? Yes. Do they think they’re special? No. They’re just doing their jobs.
The men I spoke with work for Shelton Energy Solutions, and encouraged me to visit their Facebook page, so I did. I’ll share this post there. They were very, very nice.
Thank you, Power Angels. You’re the best. Can you turn on the lights at Gumbo Cove tomorrow?
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