The date was Saturday, August 27th, 2005, and that was the day we were leaving / evacuating or what I call Phase 3, which began about 5am. We have evacuated many many times before, so this was nothing really new…except it would be the last time I would ever live in New Orleans, or see things the way they were BK (before Katrina). An evacuation for normal people is NOT the same as it is for my wife and I. I think you will recall the checklist I put in this other post. The worst evacuation we did was the year before with Hurricane Ivan. We had a friend let us stay with he and his family. (By we, I mean us and the 13 cats we had at that time. One of them was very sick and died about 6 months later, leaving us with the 12 we had when we left for Katrina.) This friend lived about 120 miles away, which is normally a 2 hour drive from our house along Interstate 10. That trip took over 14 hours. 14 hours of me driving with 13 cats and my wife. As bad as that was, however…at least we got to go home again after a couple days. Where was I? Oh right…
So the checklist also showed an entry for hotel reservations in multiple hotels. The purpose of that is to make sure one has options when it comes to evacuation destinations. You don’t really want to to evac to a place that is going to also get hit hard enough to cause problems. You also want to try and stay on the western side of the storm. (There is a lot of information out there that will show you the reasons why.) So I had reservations at pet friendly hotels for 3 rooms in the following cities: Baton Rouge, LA; Jackson, MS; Beaumont, TX. As I watched the storm and paid attention to the forecasters, it seemed that Baton Rouge was the sweetspot. It was far enough west without being so far that the return drive home wouldn’t be brutal (no one ever expected not to be able to return), so I cancelled the other 2 hotels to free those rooms up for others. The final packing had begun.
Ever heard the expression easy as herding catsI? I don’t think one can truly understand what that means until and unless they have done that. There are always a few of our rescued-adoptees that remain touch-me-nots. So, you can imagine what it is like to try and herd and collect them into their respective carriers. It usually involves a lot of stooping, crawling, arm waving, and cursing. A whole fuck-load of cursing. So imagine again, if you can, a Honda CRV with 12 carriers stacked in the back. Any spare space is packed with their supplies except for the space at my wife’s feet. The 2 duffle bags of our belongings are down there. Off we go to her parent’s house to meet up with them, her aunt, and our friend. They each have their animals as well mind you. Once we meet up it is caravan time to Baton Rouge. It is important that I teach you a word that describes a new evacuation method created after the evacuation I described above that turned a 2 hour drive into a 14 hour one. That word is contraflow. Here is an animated map showing the evacuation routes for Hurricane Katrina. We were finally off and on the Highway to Hell.
Pay attention first to the blue line, which would have been the normal route to Baton Rouge. It was also the most crowded, and would have taken us about 4 hours to travel 70 miles of Interstate due to the sheer number of people fleeing the approaching storm. So me, the Daddy, decided to lead our wagon train north on the magenta line. That route is supposed to then force the driver west until it met up with I-55 and force you north again to Jackson, Ms. Knowing my way around, however, I slipped us off the contraflow to the tan line of Us Highway 190 and on our way to Baton Rouge. I should now mention the sound within our vehicle?
So, 12 cats, each in their own carriers, each with 1/2 a tablet of tranquilizer to relax them just enough so that they were each a wee bit high…and VOCAL!!! Oh yeah cats on kitty-tranq’s are always extra vocal. And what a sound they make. 12 different frequencies, pitches, rates, and vibratos…I wish I could re-enact it for you just so you could enjoy. Honestly, though, the trip was not that bad. My re-route cut our trip down to about an hour and a half, and it was mostly uneventful. We made out way into and found our hotel, where we unloaded and tried to settle in to a single hotel room with 12 cats. Little did we know, at the time, that we would spend the next 5 months, including Thanksgiving and Christmas, at that hotel.