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Photo by Johnna Crider during blackout from Hurricane Ida.

Climate Change

Riding Out Ida: Loss Of Communications, Extreme Heat With No Power, Help From SpaceX — Is This The New Normal?

It’s been a hell of a week, to say the least. I think this is the first article I’ve written since the storm hit. Last Sunday night, I lost power and turned to the emergency weather radio station. Then it went offline, and along with it, all communications. I fell asleep curled up in the safest area of my home, in the dark, while the winds of Ida raged outside. The last thing I saw was the radar showing that my city was east of the storm and that the eye was projected to pass right over us. I don’t know how, but I fell asleep. Fortunately, the storm turned north at the last minute, which put Baton Rouge on the west side — which is the best side of a hurricane to be on.

When I woke up, I checked my phone and saw that it was just after 6:00 AM. There was no service and I couldn’t get online. So I did what you’re not supposed to do during hurricanes — I went outside. I saw that it was incredibly gusty outside, but there were no powerlines down in my yard or driveway, so I started putting the plants back outside so I could open up the front room — the only room with screened windows. I can’t open the other windows because I don’t have screens on them and my two cats would escape outside.

I had to brush my teeth with bottled water because I wasn’t sure if the water was safe, and at the time, there wasn’t a way to find out. I lit the stove (I have a gas stove) and boiled water for the day. Cell service and internet were down and would be down most of that first day. Neighbors who had Verizon were able to communicate and we later managed to listen to Governor Edwards speak on the radio. I was relieved to find out that my parish, East Baton Rouge Parish, was one of the only parishes that didn’t have a boil-water advisory in place — our water was safe.

Being without access to communication made me feel like I was cut off from the rest of the world. I remember how the media treated Lake Charles last year and didn’t report on the humanitarian crisis that was happening in our state. I admit — I worried that the same would happen this year.

Eventually I was able to receive texts, but would have to send the same text a few times before it went through. Calls dropped. But several friends in the Tesla community reached out to let me know they were there for me — Gail with Tesla Owners Club of Austin, Will with Tesla Owners Club of Connecticut, and Kristen (K10) each let folks know that I’d survived the storm and that my home was intact. Other friends texted me to let me know that they were watching the news — and that our situation was being widely reported on. I felt relief — that we weren’t abandoned by the press like we were last year.

Extreme Heat, Almost 4 Days Without Power — And I Was One of The Lucky Ones.

I didn’t eat that much during those 3+ days without power. It was simply too hot. A thermometer showed that the inside of my apartment was 140 degrees Fahrenheit at one point. I had to ice down my pets (to their extreme discomfort) to keep them from dying of heatstroke. Cooling centers were opened in New Orleans for those who had cars, but at that time, none were opened for Baton Rouge.

Unlike most of the areas affected by Ida, we had running water that was clean and safe to drink. I took 3–4 showers each day the power was out. My neighbor took me to Target where I bought animal crates. I put the cats in them and used another neighbor’s water hose to cool them down. Then I brought them inside to the front room, the coolest room.

I slept in my living room on the floor in front of the door — with it open. I have a screen door that I was able to lock, but anyone could easily break in. Dangerous, but there was no air circulation in my home. I figured that if someone wanted to break in, the heat would drive them out. Nothing happened, thankfully.

On days 2 and 3, the internet started to stabilize a bit more, along with cell service. By the end of day 3, T-Mobile’s 5G towers were back online and I was having almost normal service. However, the heat was draining, and as I laid down on the mattress that night, I wondered just how I would survive the next day. Then, around 2:00 AM, I heard a loud bang and the air conditioner come to life.

Despite my struggles and literally fighting for my life and those of my pets, we were incredibly lucky. Hammond, LA, is still without power. There are other areas where people still don’t have power or water. Grand Isle will take months to be rebuilt. The mayor said that it looked like a bomb went off.

Shopping to replace the spoiled perishables was a bit of an adventure. Walmart was impossible to go to — lines were wrapped around the store and staff were letting only a few people in at a time. I went to Target where the lines weren’t that bad. The first day, the store was practically empty of supplies. The second day I went, the staff was restocking almost as fast as people were shopping.

SpaceX, Walmart, Tesla Community Online, And Others Pitching In To Help

Once I was back online and had power, I think I slept on and off for two days — recovering from the extreme heat. I later learned that a SpaceX ship, Bob, had to ride out the storm. In fact, the ship spotted wound up taking the full force of Ida as it made landfall at Port Fourchon. SpaceExplored noted that SpaceX was testing the ships Bob and Doug and that both were on their way to Port Canaveral when they had to ride out the storm.

What SpaceX did for St. Charles Parish, however, was critical. St. Charles Parish tweeted a thank you to Elon Musk and SpaceX for helping the parish get communications back up with Starlink. When asked how the parish government liked the connection, the account tweeted, “It has been great so far! We will update you as soon as we use it more.”

PA Homepage reported that Walmart would donate up to $10 million for victims of Ida. SBP USA, a New Orleans-based nonprofit that has helped with many disasters, shared that there was also free water at the Walmart in Chalmette and that other stores would start distributing it. SBP also added that Lowes, We Are Farmers, and a few others stepped up to help our community.

While I was offline, I’d been in contact with Gail of Tesla Owners Club of Austin who offered to help me raise funds for my community. My neighborhood is mostly poor, predominately Black, and my landlady has a small deli and catering business. We’d all suffered from this storm. The idea was to raise some funds so she could feed our neighborhood hot, fresh meals when the power came on. However, the Tesla community helped with more than enough to do that and we plan to distribute gift cards for basic necessities until supplies run out. I plan on writing a separate article on this.

Ida Wrecking Havoc in NYC

When I finally got online, I was completely stunned to see that the storm had not dissipated as storms usually do once hitting land, but that it caused severe damage as far away as New York City. People were flooded out of their homes, there was flooding in the subways. And New York wasn’t the only place affected.

Climate change is upon us, and, sadly, this is the new normal. However, moving isn’t an option for those of us along the coast. For me, the cost of living is much more affordable in Baton Rouge than it is in Atlanta or Dallas. I’ve heard many horror stories from friends and neighbors about relatives stranded or lost in the storm. One neighbor had family members in Galliano that went missing. Luckily, they were eventually found safe and sound.

I’m just glad I made it through this one.

 

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Written By

Johnna owns less than one share of $TSLA currently and supports Tesla's mission. She also gardens, collects interesting minerals and can be found on TikTok

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