The second we know a hurricane is coming, we brace ourselves. Weathermen monopolize local TV stations. Cable news outlets go on high alert. Newspapers bulletin their websites. As a multimedia culture, we engage the hurricane in a kind of staring contest, fixing our collective camera-eye on the hurricane-eye that can't see us on the ground because we’re so tiny and meek in the face of Mother Nature’s power.
Imagine being on the ground in New Orleans 12 years ago this month, August 2005. It being the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, which lasts from June to November every year, you would have seen a lethal storm forming in the ocean called Katrina.
“Of the 450,000 people that were affected by Katrina, no two stories are the same,” says APL Social Media Ambassador Daniel Lonzo. I chatted with Daniel on the Library’s podcast APL Volumes (on LibSyn, iTunes and Stitcher). Social media was only a small part of our conversation. The bigger part was Daniel’s hurricane story.
Daniel Lonzo speaks on Katrina.
A native of New Orleans, Daniel settled in Austin a decade ago because of Katrina. When the hurricane made landfall in Louisiana and the southeastern U.S. on August 29, 2005, Daniel hunkered down in the second story of his house, which flooded along with 80 percent of the city.
“From my experience I just had never left my home at all and said if something was gonna happen I’d rather die in my home than on the street or somewhere else,” says Daniel in the podcast.
Katrina left the Big Easy knee-deep in hard times, including $108 billion in damage. These difficulties are well documented (at APL), and New Orleans continues to feel them today. The aftermath is reckoned not just in dollars, but also in lives lost and lives – like Daniel’s – changed forever. Eventually, Daniel was rescued from his submerged house by someone with a boat. He was then taken to a place where he could be transported to family in Austin.
“Coming to Austin I can now do some of the same things I did in New Orleans, as far as keeping up with my reading, watching my movies, stuff like that,” he says, citing his history frequenting the public libraries of both his native and adopted cities.
Daniel has the right idea. The Library is a resource and a refuge, especially during hurricane season. It can help you prepare for a disaster and prepare to take refuge in reading. Lauren Medeiros, one of Daniel's fellow Social Media Ambassadors, reminded us of the latter when she tweeted, "This is how I prepared for Hurricane Harvey." Harvey hit over the August 25 - 27 weekend. He mostly spared Austin but was not as merciful toward fellow Texans in Houston and other cities on the Gulf Coast. And it's only August.