Submitted November 5, 2008

We were airlifted from the balcony of our home after 6 days

Dear Tom,

Thanks for your interest in Katrina survivors. We rode it out and then were airlifted from the balcony of our home after 6 days. Our neighbors stayed with us too because we didn't know how high the water was going to get. Anyway we learned first hand what worked and what didn't for us.

Phones were not working, landlines stayed up longest, cell phones were out with the storm but our home phone worked until the flood. So communication is not to be counted on. Best to make plans with family before an event if you live in an area prone to possible disaster. We managed to make quick calls when we saw the water coming up the street, told our families that we were going to hunker down in our home and hold out, that we had plenty of water and food but felt safest at our house. We also told them that we would likely be removed at some point and would contact them and might need airplane tickets to their cities or other help but to wait until we call them. We also reassured them that we were armed and that we knew of the anarchy and conditions that were deteriorating at the convention center and Superdome, and that we would refuse to leave until we knew they would take us to a safe place out of New Orleans. So assume you are on your own at least for the time being.

During our six days at our home we didn't have much appetite but did eat some. We learned that we needed to use food that didn't attract bugs, both for or animals and for us, no canned cat food! We were careful with our water but had plenty even though we had three extra adults - having extra people is of course something that might very well occur in the event of a disaster. So hurricane season requires extra supplies on hand all season. We were fortunate in that the water stayed just low enough that it didn't come in our house. We were surrounded by it and I often thought of the people I had seen at the sporting goods buying inflatable rubber boats prior to other hurricane threats, that I could have used one to get food to my outdoor cats that were stranded across the street. Anyway, we fortunately have decks in our back yard so our dogs could get outside. I think a good pair of waders would have been real handy to get around with to retrieve items and feed animals. The water was up just under our waistline and was not something that you want to get in to.

It would have helped to have sanitizing soap, the kind you can just put on your hands or body and rid the nasty water effect. Trash bags for discarding spoiled food and items that you need to put away from you. Wish we had cleaned out the refrigerator before it got nasty. We did use Gatorade, we had to. It was soo-o-o hot day and night, so still and we sweated so much. Anyway dry Gatorade was a life saver for electrolytes. We didn't have instant coffee either, what a headache when we were used to grinding coffee fresh daily . . . so we chewed the coffee beans. Having the basics that you are accustomed to like coffee or tea are a good idea.

I did have a small tent available in case we needed it. If the roof didn't hold we could still stay in the house and have shelter. Fortunately we kept our windows because we have shutters. Tape and plastic are good to have on hand, tools like a battery operated screw gun, screws, hammer, nails, etc. We had a window that came loose and nearly broke out during the hurricane and we used a piece of wood, some screws and the screw gun to re-secure it.

Useful items we had included a crank radio and solar lights from the yard. We thought that we could go outside and sit in the running car to cool off with the air conditioning but we lost our vehicles too, and had to suffer with no relief from the sweltering heat. Even a little fold out hand fan would have helped so we used newspapers, magazines, etc. to fan ourselves . . . again the Gatorade really helped.

Probably the only other item I can think of right now is about our pets. We had to leave them and three were rescued, most stayed until we got back. We dumped all the dry food we had and put all the water into containers on the floor for them and made a hole in the back door so the cats could go out and survive as needed. Everybody made it except two cats who were killed by dogs. It was three and a half weeks before we got back home and everyone was in good shape thanks to all the food we put out and the food volunteers left for them with fresh water. In trying to find our two dogs and cat that were rescued (we saw them on Animal Planet show Katrina Rescues when they showed them in our yard making the rescue). The licenses did no good on the animals, the information was also lost when the SPCA flooded. So we had to recognize them in pictures. Micro chips would have helped greatly and ID tags would have helped. We got our pets back by perseverance.

Sincerely,

Margie Wilmoth

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