Thursday, September 4, 2008

Getting Away From Gustav

Saturday August 30, 2008 (Written 9-1-08)

At first since Gustav’s track kept going west, we were only planning to go to my sister in law’s house in Ponchatoula, La. When the storm turned into a Category 4, my mother in law decided that we were leaving. I was packed and ready for noon. I ran to my local scrapbook store Scrappersaurus to pick up the design team layouts that I had on the wall, and my book for the journaling class I teach. When I got back home I was informed that we weren’t leaving until 4 pm. My mother in law (MIL) and sister in law (SIL) were still packing. Looking back I find it amazing that I can pack five people and their memories in four hours. Unfortunately I am a pro at evacuation packing.

We got in the van and didn’t run in to any traffic until we got to the Mississippi state line. Traffic was gridlocked for miles. One of the hardest parts of evacuating is seeing people over on the side of the road out of gas or broken down. Especially those with small children. It’s impossible to stop to help them because you’ve barely got enough gas yourself and are hoping the next service station you get to won’t have run out of gas, and that you’ll be able to afford it. (Every time there’s an evacuation the price of gas jumps due to oil crews having to evacuate oil platforms.) Most gas stations run out of regular and plus gas, and you have to buy premium when you can barely afford regular!

We got to Pensacola, FL at 10pm. A drive that should’ve taken 3 hours took 6, and I hear that we were lucky because traffic only got worse. We pulled up to the Ashford Inn where my MIL had made reservations because they took pets. We were traveling with our dog (Lady) and my SIL’s dog as well. My MIL went in to the lobby and they told her she had no reservation there. It turned out that there were too Ashford Inn hotels in Pensacola. So we drove to the other one, and my MIL went in. They told her that we had called and cancelled our reservations. She had a fit (that’s a southern word for a tantrum LOL) and they said they would get us in. She asked to see the room, and she came out disgusted saying that we were not staying there. It was too dirty and not suitable for my kids.

By now it’s 11 pm, my kids have been in the car for 7 hours. They were crying to be held, and are extremely upset. Now we have no reservation, and no clue where to go. We drove back the way we came in and spotted a Comfort Inn. We stopped and my MIL went in to ask about vacancy. They could only let us stay one night. We took only the essentials out of the car, and left everything else in it. While we were unpacking the car, a man came up and asked us for money. He asked where we were from while he scoped out the contents of our cars. This really upset my MIL because she was afraid we would be robbed.

We carried the kids and our stuff to the 3rd floor of the hotel. We found broken glass on the floor of our hotel room, so my MIL went to complain. At this point I didn’t care if I had to SLEEP on the glass if my kids had a bed to sleep in. Finally my MIL came back upstairs with a broom and swept it up. We got the kids changed and fell into bed sweaty and exhausted. Around 1 am my MIL knocked on our door to ask how our dog was doing, (She has epilepsy, and was quite upset during the car ride.) I told her that she had calmed down and was doing well. My MIL told me they were bringing my SIL’s dog to the emergency vet because she wasn’t feeling well. She was having trouble breathing. I asked if they needed help, and they said no, so I went to bed.

Sunday August 31, 2008

The next morning at 8am, my SIL knocked on the door. As soon as I saw her I knew something awful had happened. They got to the vet by calling a cab and following it there after getting lost trying to get to the vet the first time. The vet told them that her dog had fluid filling her lungs because of old age, and that the reason she was howling is because she was in pain. They had to euthanize her. My SIL and her husband were so upset. I can’t even imagine. The vet’s office agreed to freeze her for 1 week so they could bring her home to bury her once the storm passed.

We began calling around for other hotels, and found a Comfort Inn in Destin, FL. They said they could take us for a week. We started to drive there, around 11 am on the way we saw smoke billowing up from the side of the road. Cops started flying by on the road and we moved to the left lane. My MIL followed, but my SIL wasn’t quick enough and got separated from us. We saw a travel trailer pulled off on the side completely engulfed in flames. Thankfully the people who were in it escaped, and were standing to the side. The fire was so intense that when the cops waved us through we could feel the heat through the windows of our car. The cop let our car, and Ronnie’s Mom’s car through, but stopped my SIL.

We pulled to the side of the road a few 100 feet away. Then we heard explosions! So we called SIL and told her we would be at the next exit. She later told us that the explosions blew stuff everywhere. All I could think about was that those people were probably evacuating like we were, so they probably had everything of value to them in that trailer. I felt terrible for them.

After a while you get so stressed you begin to get numb. SIL and her husband caught up to us 45 minutes later. We continued to Destin, and arrived at 11 am, only to find out that the Comfort Inn there didn’t take dogs. We thought about sneaking Lady in, but they told us we would be fined. My MIL and SIL decided that Ronnie should go attempt to board our dog at a kennel. We couldn’t get into the room until 3 pm, but they gave us a pool key so the kids could swim.

Ronnie went to go board the dog, and I had to get into the pool with all 3 kids. I kept trying to keep them on the steps because we had no floaties. Jordan kept trying to jump off of them, so SIL took pity on me and came in the pool as well. We swam with the kids for about an hour and a half. The kids were getting hungry so we pulled them out of the pool for a snack. Ronnie came back with Lady and said that the kennel was closed, but he’d found a Days Inn that would accept the dog. He booked the room for 3 days.

I got the kids dressed and we went up to my MIL’s room. (AFTER I found Brandon’s toy he dropped in the bathroom, and Alexis’ underwear she dropped in the elevator.) Ronnie took the Lady with him to pick up something to eat. MIL’s hotel was really fancy and even had an indoor saltwater pool that the kids really enjoyed. As I was going down to meet Ronnie and switch places to sit with the dog in the sunshine, I saw a woman bringing a huge golden retriever into her room. I asked her if she snuck the dog in, and she told me no, that she’d asked to speak with the manager and told him she was an evacuee, and that she had no where else to go, so the dog was allowed.

I met my SIL on the way down to see Ronnie, and told her what the woman had said. She said, “I would rather y’all go to that other hotel so my husband and I have our own room.” My feelings were hurt, but she’d just lost her dog and we were all under so much stress… I just said okay and went down and talked to Ronnie. He said we’d just go. After he and the kids ate, they came downstairs, and we went to the other hotel.

We got there and Ronnie checked in while I waited with the kids. We got the kids up to the room, and opened the door. It reeked of mold and mildew. At this point there was NO WHERE ELSE to go. I found the source of the smell on the bathroom ceiling. It was full of mold. Jordan has asthma, and had an active case of bronchitis. I was so upset that I reached my breaking point and just sat down and cried. I am not a crier. I hate crying, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. Alexis got upset because I was crying. Ronnie looked extremely upset because there was nothing we do short of going back to the nice hotel and force SIL to stay in MIL’s room as originally planned. We both had enough drama, so we decided to keep the bathroom door shut with the vent on. I sprayed the ceiling with antibacterial spray and it helped somewhat. I also brought my trusty Febreeze, and that cut down on the smell.

My MIL wanted us to meet them for dinner, but we were all tired. I was upset, and it just seemed easier to stay there. Ronnie told her no, and we went to sleep around 8pm exhausted, and extremely stressed out. It seemed like everything that could possibly have gone wrong, DID! (Although looking back now… it could’ve been worse.)

Monday September 1, 2008

10am- Happy Labor Day! Ugh. We woke up around 6 am this morning. Our backs are killing us. My MIL called at 8 am. Ronnie and I were getting the kids ready to go over there. I was packing their clothes and swimsuits. I refused to have the kids bathe in the bathroom of our moldy hotel. Ronnie and the kids went over to the other hotel with the kids in their pajamas. He left them with his Mom and Dad, (Who drove up separately from us.) and his sister, so that he could wash clothes (Isn’t he sweet?) They took the kids swimming. I stayed at our hotel to watch the dog so we wouldn’t have to argue with the management at the other hotel. Of course I cleaned the hotel room as well as I could.

We got rain bands from Gustav even though we were all the way in Destin! We were under tornado watches and warnings all day. I watched Gustav make landfall near Cocodrie, La. It put my grandparents in Port Sulphur, La. on the bad side of the storm. I heard that they had 9 feet of water by their home. (I later found out this was false!) I was very upset because they had already lost everything in Katrina, and they only just moved back into their house in November of 2007.

Our home in Covington was under tornado watches and warnings. Of course I kept hearing about the power outages. Hearing this made me feel really grateful that we emptied and unplugged our fridge before we left so that it wouldn’t be ruined like our last one was in Katrina. I hated not knowing what is going on at my house with all of the stuff that has happened during evacuation. I found myself almost wishing we didn’t evacuate, but Jordan had to have electricity for her nebulizer just in case. I know that people were much worse off than we were. It just sucked.

Ronnie brought dinner back to the hotel. There’s no dieting when you evacuate. Breakfast usually consists of junk food, little Debbie cakes or cookies… whatever is cheap and quick. Lunch is fast food, and dinner is restaurant takeout. After a while you begin to feel sick, and crave vegetables.

Tuesday September 2, 2008

We woke up again with sore backs. Junk food was the order of the day again for breakfast. Everyone wanted to eat all of the time due to being bored. The kids were tired of the few toys we were able to bring. As I wrote this entry Captain Chaos (Brandon) was messing with every dangerous thing he could find. Outlet… germ infested trash can… nasty phone cord… I swear that kid got into every single thing.

Reports were starting to come in regarding Gustav’s damage; we heard my in-law’s house was safe. We had heard my grandparent’s house was safe, but nothing about ours! We do no there’s no electricity near where we live. No electricity meant no stores, no gas stations, and no sewer. The news channels reported that the parish presidents were asking people not to return until the power came back on. They weren’t letting people go home. Police set up checkpoints to turn people back. We all wanted to go home. Tempers were short. The kids kept acting up. I don’t think you are ever properly grateful for your home until you are forced out of it.

Ronnie took the kids over to his Mom’s hotel while I was stuck with Lady again. In a way it was a good thing because it was quiet, but in another way it made me feel like a second class citizen. Oh well. He brought back lunch, and then I went to the front desk to ask about extending our stay in our moldy room for another day since we couldn’t go home yet. I was told it wouldn’t be a problem. Yay! NOT.

Later Tuesday night, we heard that power was on in some areas near our home, but I couldn’t read anyone near us for confirmation, and then it was even more important to have electricity to run the nebulizer because Brandon had gotten very sick. Breathing in the mold caused mucus to build up in his lungs. The breathing treatments were all that was keeping his lungs clear enough to breathe. We wanted to go home as soon as we could.

Alexis was fascinated by the hotel lobby. It was decorated in an Asian style with a huge fountain filled with koi fish that were over 2 feet long. There were Buddha statues and a talking parrot. Sure the parrot only said “Hello”, but Alexis was impressed. I was just grateful that there was something to keep her attention for the 5 minutes it took me to make a cup of coffee.

Wednesday September 3, 2009

We still weren’t certain whether or not there would be any electricity at home. There was no way of knowing for sure. Parish officials said that power was slowly being restored. We planned to go back home because Brandon was getting increasingly sick. I packed up the car, and Ronnie went to get his Mom after we found out we’d be allowed back to our house. (She was helping us pay the hotel bill.) When she got to the hotel and saw how awful it was she told Ronnie off. She asked him why he didn’t tell her it was so bad. He didn’t want to upset her.

Then she decided that we had to stay one more night before going home. This time at her hotel. My SIL moved into the room with MIL, and we moved into SIL’s room for all of 5 minutes before MIL decided that we needed to move to a different room because of a slight smoke smell. We decided not to tell her about the mold in our other room because she’d be even more upset.

My feelings were hurt for not being consulted about what we were doing. I honestly wanted to go home. I understood that Ronnie felt stuck in the middle. I just feel like when his family is around I get swept up in whatever they decide is best, and I am not used to my opinion not counting for much. Don’t get me wrong I was so grateful that they were helping us. I just felt overlooked. It’s very possible I was overreacting. I was far from home, tired, and worried because my kids were sick. I didn’t know what I was going home to. The hotel was very nice.

Ronnie’s parents took the girls to lunch while Ronnie and I took care of Bubs. I got him to go to sleep after his breathing treatment, and then I went for a much needed walk. Because I’m ALWAYS on the lookout for scrapbook stores, I was thrilled to see one a few blocks from our hotel. Armed with my room key and $20.00, I set off to get my scrap shopping fix. To my delight I found myself at a store called Scrapbook Clearance in Destin, where everything was ½ off, and it’s always that way!!! I got a great deal on some Queen and Co. embellies and even some Thickers. I could’ve gotten more, but I had to be a good girl because we needed gas $ to get home the next day.

When I got back I saw Ronnie and the kids heading out to sit by the pool. It was so hot that everyone ended up going back to our room. I got to shave my legs for the 1st time in a week after everyone left. I “borrowed” Ronnie’s razor. I have always wondered why men’s razors work so much better than women’s razors. LOL I may have to buy one like his. Jordan asked me why I have stripes (stretch marks)? I told her to go ask Brandon. =0)

Thursday September 4, 2008

Last night was another sleepless night. The kids were antsy and didn’t sleep well. Ronnie didn’t either; he was up at 4:30. I had packed everything and put it by the door. We got up and I changed the kids’ diapers, but left them in their pajamas. It was more comfortable for them to travel that way. I was really nervous about what we would find when we got home. Groceries will be hard to come by, and gas will be impossible.

We had to throw everything in our fridge away in case the power went out. After Katrina… when we came home the stuff in our freezer had turned into rotten soup. I couldn’t clean it. I kept getting sick, and Ronnie had to pull everything out. I never did get it clean enough to get the smell out even though I scrubbed it like mad. We replaced it after a week. I didn’t want to have to go through the same thing again, so we just threw everything out. 100 dollars in groceries wasted vs. a new 600+ fridge; somehow I think everything worked out.

Being away from home really made me appreciate it. There’s not enough storage, it’s cluttered, and collects dust, but it’s home. It’s where are memories are, and it’s where my comfy bed is! I’m just praying everything is ok. Brandon is still sick, but not as sick as he was. I’m grateful for that! The kids miss being home. Especially Jordan, my little homebody, she’s been asking to go home ever since we left. She’s a lot like me in that way.


WE MADE IT HOME!!!! Everything is ok, and we have power. I am so grateful. I’ve been writing these updates for the past few days, but never had internet access to upload them. Thank you to everyone who prayed for me and my family. We are safe! Now the fun part begins… putting the tons of stuff that we brought with us up. If you emailed me, please be patient as I catch up around here. I promise I’ll write back soon! If you read all of this thank you for sticking with me. LOL Pics will be added later... and I designed another word art freebie as well.

Please remember while my family and my home made it through this storm okay, others did not! If you have time you can check out the Red Cross webpage at They do so much to assist the victims of hurricanes.

Heather Landry
Miracle’s Momma Designs


Julie W. said...

What a nightmare!! I've never had to evacuate my home but I know it'd never be easy! It sounds like you guys rolled with the punches, though. I'm so glad you all are safe!!

MindyRadio said...

Oh Heather. I have been so worried about you. I am so thankful you all are safe, if not a bit weary. I hope everyone starts feeling better and you don't have to go through anything like that again.

Svana Valería said...

Hi there friend
just found youre blogg and im so glad you got home save from the hurricane

take care love Valeria

Leah said...

Hey girl!! I am so glad you are safe!!! This was the saddest post. I can just feel the stress, from dirty hotel rooms (I am such a germaphobe and that would have been my breaking point too) and antsy kids, and so much time being away. I am a homebody too. I actually cried when you said that it was crowded and dusty but it was home!!! I hope Brandon feels better really quick, and things settle down soon. {{Hugs to you}}

TheresaK said...

Oh my Heather, your story made me cry. I am so glad you are all home safely. I could not imagine what you all went thru. Take care xoxo

Jane said...

OMG!!!! I don't know how you made it through all that without a nervous breakdown!!!!! Totally!!
I'm so glad you and your family are OK...I had been thinking of you!! We are getting LOTS of rain from Gustav all the way up here!!!

Ann said...

What an ordeal! I can't imagine packing and traveling under such stressful conditions. We usually have evacuees from Beaumont but they were concerned that the remnants of Gustav where headed for us so went to Dallas this time. They are all adults but travel with 3 dogs and 3 or 4 cats!

Glad you are home safely and I hope the kiddies are feeling better after a night in their own beds!

Jessica's mom said...

Oh my, I'm glad to read that you made it back safe and sound, if a bit worse for the wear.

It's always so hard when you're trying to depend on someone else. Take care and hopefully everyone will be feeling back up to snuff quickly.

Have you repacked your fridge? I know how important that is to A.

Angi said...

OMG I can't beleive the drama you experienced. I'm so sorry - but I am SO glad you are OK! I am no stranger to family drama, but this evacuations stuff is more than I can handle! If it weren't for the love of my house I'd say take me back to Vegas!