Operation Tail Feather:

We left the house in Missouri around 7pm on Monday afternoon. The plan was to get into Jefferson as soon as the Feds opened the flood gates and try to sneak into the city by whatever means necessary.

After driving about 8 hours, we hit Jackson and tried to get some fuel. Apparently the entire state is under some 12am curfew, including all the gas stations. We could either wait until 6am when the stations opened or keep driving and hope that we hit something along the way. With a half tank, we forged on, driving into the complete darkness of I-55.

In McComb we finally found a place that was selling gas. We picked up enough to fill up the tank and one of the extra cans we brought with the $50 that we were allotted. The other patrons looked considerably more prepared than we were. Almost everyone else had a trailer with 5-10 spare 5 gallon tanks of gas. The stories I heard while waiting in line made me paranoid.

"They closed I-55 after Ponchatoula. You have to drive to Baton Rouge and get on Highway 90 there."

"They closed Highway 90. You have to take Airline Highway."

"They closed Airline Highway. There is no way into the city."

Every time I mentioned that I was trying to get into New Orleans itself, I was met with incredulity or deep belly laughs.

When we reached the Ponchatoula split, the traffic came to a stand still. With 50 miles left to get to the city, I thought that traffic was backing up here. I came so close to turning around, but I kept thinking of starving kittens and birds and how much they needed me. That made it easier.

After moving by the inch for 45 minutes, we were waved through and continued almost unhindered onto Airline Highway. I started to see the destruction here. At the Causeway/Airline intersection, as I rode up the ramp, I could see the expanse of the road flooded straight into the city. My companion was taking pictures, but my mission was clear, so I wasn't rubbernecking.

At the entrance into Uptown, there was a checkpoint with heavily armed guards. I knew this was the crucial moment. I'd though of what to say, how I should say it, etc. When it came to it, I decided to lie through my teeth. I flashed my Entergy badge and told them I was doing "storm restoration support." It worked like a charm.

The only scary moment was entering Beth's condo to get Tyler. We were armed with handguns, but there were fences to scale, and we had to get onto the second floor somehow to get into the building. Once we got up there, there was a dark stairwell to the fifth floor with what looked like blood in puddles. It smelled horrible.

Opening the door the the condo, I found Tyler were I left him, intact and alive. That moment made the 30 hour odyssey worthwhile.
link to this post   11:27 AM by Trey | (0)

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