Window to Winn – Inspiration from Hurricane Laura

By Bob Holeman

A number of people who’ve met me during these COVID-restrictive days have commented that they’ve missed my column.  I feel honored to be missed but countered that when you can’t get out and about as I did during my Enterprise days, it’s hard to find inspiration.  But with the arrival of Hurricane Laura during the early hours of August 27, I can’t claim that any more.  So let’s talk about it.

Brenda Kaye called me Wednesday to shift my appointment with Dr. Gaddis from Thursday to the following Wednesday.  That sounded like a good idea.  It turned out to be a really good idea because we awoke to a powerless Winnfield Thursday morning.  I hadn’t heard much of the wind and the fury that night, not enough to wake me up.  But there was apparently enough storm to knock out all electrical power across the region.

Wind was out there but didn’t seem too bad in the dawning hours of the morning.  We got into Boy Scout mode and put an insulated sleeping bag over the refrigerator/freezer to help hold in the cold.  We tried to avoid opening the doors too often. 

As the day advanced, so did Laura.  Like many here in north Louisiana’s piney woods, our home is in a low area surrounded by towering pines with a little hardwood thrown in.  Through our den window we had a front row view of the pines in the back yard being whipped frenetically (now there’s a word learned in high school I don’t often use).  The trees angrily hurled down pine cones, limbs and deadwood en masse.  The yard and patio were literally blanked with this debris.

Laura was just getting started.  Trees began to fall.  The dramatic crackling, then sharp snap of massive trees in the woods behind us heralded the ground-shaking thud of fallen giants.  As much as this former newspaper man wanted to stand at his picture window or even venture out into the carport to document the drama, it wasn’t the safest thing to do.

Diane retreated to the hall while I went to the bedroom where I lay and listened to the pelting of pine cones on the roof.  There were occasional thuds of limbs but nothing very big and scary.  After some time, there seemed to be a lull and I thought the worst was over.  Wrong.  When I got to the den, I saw our pines being whipped as violently as before.  Perhaps all the pine cone ammunition had been discharged and there was a lesser barrage on the roof.

I stepped outside for a quick view but quick was enough.  Like Punxsutawney Phil, I ducked back into my safe burrow.  Oddly, I decided to take this time to hand write a letter to my grandchildren in Tennessee and in Texas.  Since the copier was down, that meant actually writing two letters.  With quick and simple communication available today, the written word is a lost art and, I hope, one that’s appreciated.  I described what I saw and heard from the vantage of my Murphy chair in the corner of the bedroom.

By the time I’d finished, it really did sound quieter outside and sure enough things had settled down.  According to my faulty memory, this hurricane moved through here with more windy ferocity than Rita in 2005 and Gustav in 2008 but less rain that the slower moving ‘canes in the past.  I stepped out of my shelter and slipped onto the patio.  As I thought, the winds had abated enough for me to observe the action from my patio but I still would not wander under the swaying trees.

Limbs, pine cones and pine straw lay everywhere.  I looked to the pine by the driveway where the broken stump of a jumbo limb had hung, threatening to fall on me or my car for years.  That pesky limb was still there, refusing to fall, as if mocking this homeowner.

I’d calculated the Boy Scout protection of the fridge figuring on just a day or two without power, as with past storms. Now as I surveyed the damage to lines, poles and transformers, I realized repairs would take much longer.  Without a generator, our only option was to keep things locked down best we could.  Friday morning after Laura, neighbor Mickey Simmons was kind enough to allow us to run an extension cord from his generator to our refrigerator.  Saved the day.

Our son Chris in east Texas called to invite us to shelter with them until life in Winn returns to normal.  We felt we should begin cleanup and be available to help others.  He called back shortly with Plan #2 which sounded better.  Chris arrived late Friday night with a chainsaw and a generator plus gasoline to run it.  After a day and a half of relentless work of Chris sawing, me pulling limbs, Diane raking and us hauling off debris a wheelbarrow at a time, our yard looked like a green southern yard again, except for a mountain of limbs, large and small, beside the carport and several limbless tree trunks in the back.

We’ll let local professionals handle that.

The power of nature, even this far inland, really inspires awe and young people who experienced this historic event will have something to tell their kids about, much like some folks can recount Betsy, Audrey and Katrina.  I am also inspired to see the community response as neighbors are helping neighbors and volunteers are turning out to help prepare and distribute meals, foodstuffs, water and ice. 

Many of these are young people, the generation that some thought had lost their sense of volunteerism.  Those naysayers seem to be wrong.  This looks like a good road we might go down in next week’s column.

Be safe.

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