Archive for November, 2005

Following Katrina’s Path

A fascinating record from the Sun Herald


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More than the destruction we’ll remember your smiles

A letter to the Sun Herald newspaper on November 6th


More than the destruction we’ll remember your smiles

To the citizens of Mississippi, All of you are still in our thoughts and prayers. We are one of the National Guard units from Indiana that was called upon to respond in a time of need for Hurricane Katrina. My unit was assigned to Gulfport as checkpoint security along the railroad.

No pictures could do justice to the damage and loss that you suffered from this hurricane. Yet, while dealing with how to pick up and start over again, you took the time to talk to us. You brought us food, drinks and ice.

But what you brought us that meant the most were your smiles and hospitality. We made a lot of new friends during a short period of time and regret that our paths may never cross again.

Just know that you guys are the best and you are in our thoughts as you continue your struggle to regain what you lost.

Sgt. 1st Class Robert Bratch, for

Huntington, Indiana

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Some trees have changed in unexpected ways

Lots of trees were damaged or destroyed by Katrina, but some seem to be getting a new start at life

I don’t know much about indigenous American plants and trees, so if I am saying something that everybody knows already please forgive me – I’ve only lived here a year or so.

British Oak

In the wooded area we have at the rear of our parcel of land we have hundreds of oak trees. Not those huge magnificent oaks we love in Britain,

Live Oak

or the amazing twisted, sprawling ‘live oaks’ seen all over The South (so-called because they do not lose their leaves in the season they laughingly call winter down here), but boring, straight ‘pole’ oaks.

These are basically straight trees, reminiscent of pine trees, with a bushy bit on top that sprouts leaves that we would all recognise as relatively large oak leaves. We have literally hundreds of them. They are like weeds – it’s hard to decide which is the bigger pest, pine trees or pole oaks.

So why am I telling you all this? Because lots of those straight, boring pole oaks are growing large numbers of leaves along the length of their trunks, presumably because the amount of devastation from Katrina means they are now getting light onto those trunks.

It looks kind of weird though. when I first noticed this I thought it was vines twisting their way up the trees – we also have enough vines to start our own jungle – but closer investigation revealed it was fresh green oak leaves.

I am interested to see how these trees look in a few years time … will these new shoots survive long enough to become branches and eventually reveal a beautiful oak similar to what we are used to? Will they simply wither and die as the more normal dense carpet of leaves returns to our woods? Will something else happen? Time will tell.

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Spring is in the air

Spring is in the air

They tell us plants get confused and have a second spring

… after a big storm like Katrina. Well I think we have seen a lot of evidence of this. Lots of trees have managed to regrow their leaves having been stripped bare by the terrible winds.

Today as I walked around snapping pictures of the progress made since the storm, I discovered our once magnificent, but now rather sorry-looking magnolia tree is doing its level best to add to the recovery effort …

The magnolia tree is the rather sorry looking green mass to the left of center in the picture above.

But as you can see here, there is plenty of fresh green growth, and one magnolia flower about to bloom. Of course the tree is supposed to be in bloom in the spring and early summer, not in November!

Hopefully I can catch a photograph of the flower once it opens.

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What about supplies for repairs?

A friend and colleague asked about the availability of building supplies

So I thought I could talk a little about that here.

I want to specifically thank Home Depot and Lowes in Gulfport for being open fast and open with the right equipment! Right after the storm they had generators and chainsaws. Now, a few weeks later they have loads of power tools – saws, screwdrivers, wood chippers etc, and building supplies overflowing … roofing shingles , sheetrock etc etc.

So in answer to any question as to how easy it is to get hold of building and repair supplies, the answer is … it has been tough at times, but right now it does not appear that there is any shortage. Certainly there is no shortage for the sort of things I have needed.

Speaking of repairs, I had a huge pine tree on top of a mobile home …

Whilst our own home, and the house we own in Gulfport have escaped relatively unscathed, we did have a big pine tree fall on the roof of the small mobile home we have here for rent.

Amazingly there was very little damage. I was able to fix it with my rudementary skills! A little bit of wood, some sheet-tin, some pop rivets, some roofing tar and some Kule Seal paint to finish it all off …

It’s never going to look pretty, but there are a lot of homeless people around here right now. Hopefully we can help a small family get out of a tent and into something more weather-proof for the winter.

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Driving up to the house

Changes to our driveway in the last two months

Katrina was kind enough to throw a lot of our trees into the driveway without actually hitting our home. Here’s how things changed as clean up progressed.

Right after Katrina hit you could not even see our home from the street.

So the first job was to clear a path through the trees. A neighbour helped me here with te chainsawing – I did the lifting and moving of the chopped-up bits. I’d never used a chainsaw for anything like this at this point, so I figured it was safer to let an expert handle it, although he worried me a bit when I saw he was wearing open-toed sandals …

As you can see the pile of wood is now gone from the driveway. I was very lucky again with this wood. I spent a whole day last week – Thursday I think – lifting and moving the cluttings of one heeeeeuuuuge pine tree that had fallen onto a mobile home we have for rent. Once I had almost finished moving the pieces to the side of the road, a county-employed cleanup crew arrived and started loading the wood onto trailers to take away to the burning area a few miles away.

I cheekily asked if they could help me out by picking up the wood that was next to my driveway – they are really only supposed to take the stuff that has already been moved to the side of the road – and they agreed. Nice one. They shifted it all in under an hour, but it would have taken me most of a day to move it out to the road myself. Thanks guys!

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Picnic area update

Picnic area update

Here’s three pictures of our picnic area. Before Katrina, just after and today …

Before the storm Click to see larger image

After the storm Click to see larger image

Today Click to see larger image

There’s still a long way to go here. we have lost all our shade trees from this area, and a large pecan stump remains for me to cut the final part and remove the stump. I can live with this as it is for now until even cooler weather arrives and I can work as hard as I like without worrying about heat stroke.

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It has been a lot cooler here over the last week

So I decided to take advantage and work outside

Over the last week or so it has been (apparently) unseasonably cool here … one day the daytime temperature was no higher than 60 degrees, but most days it has been more like 68-70. This week it is a little warmer, maybe 75 max. Net week it will be back to ‘normal’ at something like 80-85. It’s November! So much for autumn 😉

So I took advantage of the cooler weather and got outside for a few days to finish up some of the most needed cleanup and repair work that I just could not face while the daytime temperatures were over 90 degrees.

My next few blog posts will show some before/after pictures, or – more accurately – just after Katrina and 9 weeks after, now that I have completed nearly all the required cleanup.

For now, I thought I should entertain you with a photograph of a spider that has taken up residence just above my head-height in the path we have through the woods to our pond. We walk this way with the dogs several times a day. Good job we are not arachnophobia. This little critter is about 3 or 4 inches across…

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