Southern Louisiana, Cajun country, gets its fair share of storms. As a child and into my adult years, I witnessed numerous tropical storms and thunderstorms, several hurricanes and a couple of tornadoes. Hurricane season was always a time to be mindful of the weather. As soon as a tropical storm or hurricane entered the Gulf of Mexico showing an inclination to head towards Louisiana, families along the Louisiana coast began to prepare. Homes and businesses would be boarded up and families not evacuating made sure supplies were on hand in the event of damage or power loss.
Today Louisiana is under a Winter Storm Watch. Beginning tomorrow, Cajun country will be pelted with freezing rain, ice and sleet. Temperatures are expected to dip into the teens as roads will likely become hazardous ice thoroughfares. It is all very unfamiliar territory for this part of the world, where winters are mild and freezing temperatures are rare. Watching the weather forecast today reminded me of my first winter storm many years ago.
I was a young Navy wife and mother of two, who had been uprooted from south Louisiana to Norfolk, Virginia, where my husband was stationed. My husband was out to sea when I heard reports on the radio to prepare for a winter storm coming that weekend. I had never heard those words before, and I thought it would be quite an experience to see a true winter wonderland. I told my little ones they would be in for a treat and went off to the grocery store to prepare.
Having never experienced blizzard or ice conditions, I never had to prepare for such an experience. I had heard to expect being snowed in for a couple of days. I thought a big pot of chili would do nicely to keep the three of us warm and fed. My shopping consisted of chili ingredients and picking up any other items the pantry was lacking. It was Friday and the storm was hitting that night.
After tucking my daughter, Hallie and son, Chase into bed that night, I laid on the couch and watched television. The house was cozy. The dark living room was softly lit with the flame from the wall furnace. Looking outside the window, I could see the freezing rain falling through the light of the streetlamp. Before retiring to bed, I watched the late-night local news broadcast. The first news item was the winter storm approaching. News reporters were stationed at local stores and covered people buying batteries, flashlights, blankets, etc., in preparation for the storm. I immediately sat up on the sofa and listened intently to the warning of ice buildup and strong winds which could lead to power outages. What – power outages? I felt so foolish! I had never considered the possibility of losing power! I was from Louisiana, where winter did not have storms!
I looked out of my window again. The rain had turned to sleet and snow would be arriving soon. There was nothing I could do but say a prayer that God would take care of us. I quietly made my way to bed and put everything in God’s hands. I heard the winds howling as I fell asleep.
The next morning, upon awakening, I looked out of my bedroom window and was shocked to see a thick white blanket of snow everywhere! The house was still warm and cozy, so power was still on. I quickly woke the kids up and had them feast their eyes on a winter wonderland, the likes I had never in my lifetime seen!
The morning was spent playing in the snow and building a snowman. We had no snowman accessories so we made a snow witch topped with my daughter’s Halloween witch hat. My children were not all together thrilled with snow and upon getting back inside to the warmth of our kitchen, they refused to return outside. The rest of the day was spent cooking chili, reading stories and every now and then taking a peek out the window to view God’s handiwork.
My husband got the biggest kick out of hearing how his wife prepared for a winter storm by buying chili ingredients! As we sat in our living room today watching the weather forecast, he reminded me of my first winter storm those many years ago. We are more prepared today for an ice event. We have also learned over the years that ultimately, God is in charge.
St. Padre Pio once wrote in a letter, “Let us be on the look-out for even the slightest symptom of anxiety, and as soon as we notice that we have fallen into discouragement let us turn to God with a child’s trust and total abandonment.”
Temperatures outside are dropping and the morning will bring sleet and freezing rain followed by another sharp drop in the temperature. I received a text message from my utilities provider warning of possible power outages. I smile at the message and say a prayer to my Father in heaven to take care of us Cajuns, who are inexperienced with winter storms and are preparing with gumbos and stews! I must go now, my beef stew is about done!