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Do you have a preparedness plan?

The massive devastation left by Hurricane Katrina all along the Gulf Coast is unfathomable to most of us who, no doubt, appreciate more than ever our relative safety from hurricanes here in the Midwest. Even an earthquake or tornado to which we are susceptible wouldn’t be expected to leave such a trail of death and destruction in its wake.
As of Friday, no official death toll had been released. In New Orleans, less than 250 had been counted, but reportedly there were thousands still floating in watery graves in and around the city. While New Orleans had the largest concentration of people (460,000) along the coast, many smaller towns were simply washed away. Many, many people who lived along the coast, even inland, were devastated. At least initially, these folks were almost overlooked by the media. Print and TV sources did an astonishing job but could not be everywhere at all times.
Katrina slammed ashore near Buras, La., early on the morning of Monday, Aug. 29. With winds at 145 mph, she was declared a Category 4 hurricane, and she sought to prove just how destructive a hurricane could be. At first it appeared that New Orleans would escape the brunt of the storm, but the next day two levees broke and water poured into the city, covering an estimated 80 percent of the land with water 20 feet deep in places. Now, more than two weeks later, suffering continues as people are plucked to safety by heroic rescue crews.
From time to time though, the tragedy is brought home so hauntingly clear in the eyes of those who survive.
Last week, I talked to a couple from Ocean Springs, Miss., a coastal town about 10 miles east of Biloxi. Dan and Christine Garrett’s home is in ruins, and although he is retired, she is, or was, still working. When and if the Garretts go home again, will her job be there? She doesn’t know. Their brick house, flooded with salt water, probably can’t be salvaged.
The story was worse for Christine’s 93-year-old mother, Ina Goff. She had a comfortable beachfront home with trees and a fine view. All that’s left is the driveway and a sparse pile of rubble and splintered lumber.
Ina and a son who lived with her piled a few possessions (his computer, family photos and two days’ worth of clothing) into his car and headed north when word came that Katrina, then a Category 5 hurricane, would strike the coast.
It is difficult to start over at any age, but at 93? Can you imagine?
My husband and I talked about just that sort of thing last night. A hurricane’s not likely to hit Harrison County, but you never know when the Ohio River or the creeks that crisscross Harrison County will rise, like they did in 1937. Flooding could be widespread here, and although it’s not likely at our house, we could be marooned so would need to go where we wouldn’t be cut off by flood water.
‘Just think for a moment, Virgil,’ I said. ‘If we had to leave this house, not knowing when or if we would get back, what would we take with us?’
‘Well, clothes,’ he said.
‘Now, honey, we can’t just take clothes. What else would we need? What if we have to start over? How could we do that? We’re not spring chickens anymore. Sure, you could sell property anywhere, but there’s only one Corydon Democrat in the world.’
‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘I don’t think I can leave.’
‘That’s not an option,’ I said.
We’d better have a plan, we agreed. Everybody should have a disaster plan. We know that now better than ever.
We decided that besides clothes, we’d need toothbrushes, meds, peanut butter and jelly, road snacks, lots of bottled water, our MasterCard, Sandy the dog, and, of course, our valuable papers. Driver’s license, deed, check book, insurance policies, all such as that.
We decided to gather up all that stuff and keep it in a grab-and-go duffel bag.
Later that night, I dreamed we faced such a situation. I grabbed the photo albums, Virgil grabbed the dog, and we were out of there!
Fact is, we can be brave and we can be free. But it’s nearly impossible to be prepared.
We should at least try.