Thursday, September 04, 2008

Gustav Aftermath - Tuesday night update

LSU Rec Center portion of roof
The new "skylight"

Date: Tuesday, September 2, 2008, 8:05 PM

Gustav has been the most devastating storm on record for Baton Rouge, sustained winds at 65 mph, gusts from 91 - 96. Gustav was literally pounding on our building as debris started flying everywhere. Initial reports to your part of the country may have been highly underestimated, so let me share with you reports from friends throughout the state...

We evacuated to the LSU rec center to be near emergency services, as Braden has not been well and really hasn't bounced back from his last pneumonia. The rec center building lost it's roof over the main gym, and has a new skylight, reminiscent of the New Orleans Dome. The rain coming into the entire main gym will total the whole floor, roof, and possibly upper track. I will post pictures as soon as I get access. You could hear pieces of the copper flashing slamming into other parts of the building, and I got video of the roof flying off the building piece by piece.

Only parts of west campus are back in service. There is only food access at one dining location on campus, and they don't have full power, only generator power and no A/C, you can imagine the chaos and humidity. While initial estimates were that the rec and other areas would be up last night with power, tonight there is still no power or A/C and the 18-hour generator are holding out well past what we expected. You've never seen so many large trees snapped in half (unless you've seen my pics from the Greensburg tornado damage), and given the amount of trees literally uprooted and branch and leaf debris, it's amazing there are actually any still on the trees. The lakes areas suffered lots of down trees, and they even shut down lakeshore drive for clean-up today.

We made our way home today to get our generator hooked up to the fridge and freezer, and Saturday night our friends the Heckerts helped us install a window A/C unit for Braden. On our drive home, we saw buildings tore apart, billboards and store signage demolished, and many sad sights of homes with trees smashed through rooftops and splitting homes in half. Power lines down everywhere, and some that made it are drooping too low for any type of 18-wheeler to pass under.

We only suffered minor damage... Tree down over the back fence, chimney top blew off, and consequently got some water in our fireplace. No apparent roof damage and windows all in tact. WE ARE THE LUCKY ONES. This is not the picture of what it's like throughout the area.

The Heckerts lost part of their roof and water damage to Jackson's room and two others. On our drive home from campus, not a single traffic light was working, not even the hospital had power. The interstate was even shut down due to downed power lines, and they re-routed traffic around it. Other colleagues have suffered major roof and damage to their homes, some may suffer more loss in the days to come, as rivers are expected to crest and surpass flood stage and create lots of flooding tomorrow through Saturday.

There is no power here, nearly ALL of Baton Rouge is without. We have heard one report of a small area near LSU has some power tonight, and a few neighborhoods too, totaling about 10 - 15,000 with power, leaving the remaining 250,000 of us without power in BR, and nearly half a million more in the state without. Two hospitals now have full power, leaving 3 major ones still not up, generators down, and no A/C. Even north Louisiana parishes are without power - most of the state is without power. I am certain most of them did not make provisions for this storm like we did, but they will likely be restored more quickly than we will. Estimates for restoration vary from 3 more days to 10 days. Parishes along the coast may be without for up to 8 weeks.

We will keep hope to get power in 3 days, however, our provider reports 99 percent of DEMCO customers are still without, and they've had a whole day already, so who knows how it will play out for us.

Our current anxieties center around being able to get gas and oil to keep the generator going, as most pumps these days require electricity, not to mention many stations ran out as the storm approached. We are working day and night to keep Braden breathing well enough to avoid a trip to the hospital, he is keeping us on our toes.

LSU has been closed for the week, and if their power system doesn't get restored by week's end, it may be longer. It will be a long recovery, and for some of LA residents near cresting rivers, the worst is yet to come. Keep praying for a quick recovery, and we will keep you up to date as our capabilities and time allows.

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