How strange to wake up to this sound just outside my window on Aug. 29, 2015. Ten years ago, I woke from a restless sleep before dawn as the outer bands of Hurricane Katrina reached my apartment, about an hour’s drive from downtown New Orleans.
The electricity went out, and it would stay off beyond the next few sleepless days and nights. As the wind rushed through the trees that were as close to my bedroom window as these are to my sliding-glass patio door today, it was accompanied by rain. Not so right now. Here in the Pacific Northwest, amid a relentless drought, our forecast called for rain today and next week, but as I look outside, I see thirsty leaves holding on to their branches and their green as they await what the gray sky seems to promise. It is not the verdant green of trees nourished by south Louisiana rains, or challenged by a major hurricane, and I swear I can hear the difference as the wind cuts through the brittle branches.
(Updating to add that I’ve discovered we had a thunderstorm hours before I awoke. It dumped more rain than we’d had since early June, but the ground and trees soaked it up so quickly, they still seemed drought-stricken by the time I opened the curtains.)
As the largest wildfire in Washington state history rages a few hours away from me, and much of the West Coast deals with problems associated with ongoing severe drought, there is other news of nature’s power. I’m reading reports of trees falling and injuring people this morning during a triathlon at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Runners in Hood to Coast arrived in Seaside amid sideways rain and wind so powerful, organizers scrapped the usual tent city for safety reasons. There are reports of residents without electricity in Oregon. I don’t know if I want to know what else could be happening in the region.
(Another update: Reports of high wind gusts followed: 85 mph on the southern coast of Washington state, 90 mph in Oceanside, Ore., and 43 mph at Portland International Airport, eclipsing the record August wind gust of 39 mph set in 1953. Our 37 mph high wind gust probably occurred around the time I stumbled out of bed to find out what was going on outside. They tell me this was a once-in-30-years storm, a freak occurrence for August, or even if it had been September.)
I wasn’t going to write anything on this anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. My plan was to spend as much time as possible in quiet reflection about the morning of Aug. 29, 2005, and the hours, days, weeks, months and years that followed in Louisiana. That’s still the plan, although my quiet time comes with a soundtrack, an eerie reminder of that Monday morning 10 years ago today.
This is the sound of wind.