Was it the rainbow? Its colors were intense and it seemed to hold a promise

Published 11:09 am Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Most people were in a blue funk Saturday morning when they woke up and found out that Emesto, sometimes tropical storm, sometimes hurricane, was in the Caribbean and was forecast to enter the Gulf of Mexico on Monday.

Genie and I also felt the funk. How could we not? That funk began almost at the moment a cluster of thunderstorms entering the Caribbean from east became a tropical depression.

Forecasters were talking about Emesto becoming a major hurricane and heading to the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, somewhere between the West Coast of Florida and Corpus Christi, Texas. Of course, we are near the center of that target area

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Thunderstorm clouds were swirling in our area Saturday morning, and that certainly did nothing to lift the depression that had settled on us.

The anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s passage through our area is today as you read this. I’m writing it Monday morning, so things still could change dramatically where Ernesto is concerned.

Monday morning, Ernesto was mildly blasting western Cuba near Guantanamo Bay and, at one point, appeared likely to travel up the west coast of Florida, the same track first forecast for Katrina after it blew through Miami as a category I storm.

Forecasters for much of Monday morning were saying the storm track could take Emesto to the east of Miami and blast the Bahamas, or it could go west and travel up the Florida’s west coast, or somewhere in between. The most likely track at the moment that I’m typing these words, though, is for it to hit Miami and travel up the east coast of Florida before moving back out into the Atlantic and battering the East Coast of the United States.

We can only wait and see.

It is significant that around town today, and elsewhere throughout the area battered by Hurricane Katrina, services of remembrance are being held, for today is Tuesday, Aug. 29. One year ago on this date, Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast following a path that took its eye over Picayune.

At 9 this morning, Mayor Greg Mitchell and the Picayune City Council held one such remembrance service at what is now being called the “historic” City Hall across from Jack Read Park. An oak tree was planted at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church today following morning Mass. Other churches and groups also are marking the day. Because of work schedules, some churches held their remembrances on Sunday.

President Bush is on his way, as I write this, to take part in some of the remembrances here in Mississippi later Monday and in New Orleans today.

It is a day that those who went through Hurricane Katrina can never forget. It certainly is the most deadly storm to hit the United States in the 21st Century and I hope that never changes. If the lessons learned from Katrina are applied, and if technology for forecasting the storms continues to improve the way that it has in recent years, it should remain this young century’s deadliest hurricane to strike the United States.

Saturday morning though, when the blue funk was compressing our chests, Emesto appeared headed here, following Katrina’s track, or that certainly is the way a great many of us viewed the forecasts we saw on television and from the National Weather Service site on our computers. Overnight Friday, if you recall, it had encountered shear on its western side, reformed to the east and then appeared to be threatening the area between just west of New Orleans and the west coast of Florida. Too close, too close.

As Genie and I headed down to Slidell for coffee with a bunch of other Katrina survivors, naturally we discussed what we needed to start doing to get ready for Emesto as soon as we finished with coffee.

When we arrived at the coffee shop, several friends were already there and the talk was of Emesto. Some of our friends are still in the recovery mode. Others are back in their houses. All had that look in their eyes, though, the glitter of fear, despair and resignation. Can we go through this again was the question of the morning.

By the time we arrived at the coffee house, Genie and I were feeling better. During our trip down to Slidell beneath the storm clouds that splattered us with rain, at a break in the clouds, we spied off to the west a rainbow.

Most rainbows I have seen in recent years, have been rather dim, almost faded. This one, though, was brilliant, its colors rich, and it stretched across the whole sky appearing to run from south to north. I couldn’t see the whole thing because I was driving. Genie could though, and she described its arc to me.

I could see the colors of a portion of the rainbow without putting us in danger of running off the road.

By the time we arrived at the coffee house, both of us felt as if a very heavy weight had been lifted off of our chests. We were almost cheerful. We had seen a beautiful rainbow and taken it as a sign that Emesto would not be coming our way.

We were still anxious, of course, but not nearly as anxious as we had been before spying the rainbow.

Beginning Sunday morning, with another change in the forecast path of Emesto taking it further east, we felt better, and since then, at least through Monday morning, the forecast path seems to be taking the storm further and further away from us.

I feel terribly sorry for anyone Emesto hits. My preference would be for the storm to follow a path that would have it doing no damage to anyone. Unfortunately, that isn’t likely.

As much as I hate to say this, those terrible storms also do some good. Florida literally depends on such storms for water to replenish its lakes, streams and ultimately its aquifers.

We don’t need another storm here, though, this year and for many years to come. It is going to take years to recover from the damage Katrina caused.

As much as I will remember Katrina on into the future, though, I think I also will remember the rainbow I saw Saturday morning and the hope it gave Genie and I.