As the winds swirled and the rains emptied out of the heavens, Whitfield County native Beverly Hensley Foret had a firsthand look from her bedroom window at the devastation being inflicted by Hurricane Ida on her current hometown of Luling, Louisiana, about 30 miles west of New Orleans on Highway 90.
Her 14-year-old son Jacob was more daring, briefly taking to the street to experience the storm up close and personal before Beverly summoned him back indoors to relative safety.
It could have been much worse. Beverly and Jacob made it safely through the storm, and their house was still standing, with no water damage and only a few lost shingles blown off the roof. All the windows were still intact, and branches that got stuck on the roof didn’t rip any holes. And their four dogs survived the disaster, too.
“We stayed at home till Thursday morning (Sept. 2), trying to make it without power,” she said. “But it just got too hot, and it was miserable for me and Jacob and the dogs, too.”
Unfortunately, the storm did uproot a tree in their backyard, taking out the fence around their patio area where they usually let their two big pitbull breeds out to potty.
“We tried to find places close by next to home to keep the dogs,” Beverly said, “but everybody was evacuating and nobody could help.”
That’s when her original hometown stepped in to help.
“I was born and raised in Rocky Face and I graduated from Northwest Whitfield (High School), so this is my hometown,” said Beverly, who used to be a truck driver for Beaulieu.
“A friend of mine up here — Jacob’s godfather — has a place in Tunnel Hill and he works through the week, so he gave me a key and is letting us stay there,” she said. “We also stayed with one of my friends from high school one night, and we stayed at my sister’s one night.”
Still, having the two big dogs was a dilemma — until the Whitfield County Animal Shelter agreed to house them temporarily, despite having hurricane problems of its own.
Because of Ida’s path of destruction to the north, Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals agencies up there that have been taking Whitfield County dogs weren’t able to accept any animals last week, creating a backlog of dogs here.
“We’re shut down right now for space,” Animal Shelter Director Diane Franklin said.
No matter, when Franklin’s assistant, Whitney Weaver, received a call from Beverly, she “knew it was the right thing to do” to let the dogs stay at the shelter.
As Whitney put it, “She can’t help what Mother Nature does — it’s not her fault.”
The two dogs have blended nicely with the others at the shelter, Franklin said.
“Ida has caused a lot of problems, and this was just the right thing to do,” she said. “Beverly had to run for her life and take what she could, and we feel like Whitfield County can step up and at least help her out while she’s in need.”
“And they have,” Beverly said. “I really appreciate them making space and making room just out of the blue, you know, be able to take them in for me.”
Beverly said the storm started getting really bad Sunday afternoon (Aug. 29).
“Our power actually went out at 1 o’clock that day, and the wind started picking up. By about 7:30 or 8 o’clock that night, it was bad. Like I said, it tore down my fence. The wind blew part of the fence down, and the tree took the rest of it out. And the tree barely missed my house, by just feet.”
Downed trees and power lines are a common sight in Luling, and Beverly said it was a struggle to get to Whitfield County.
“Everybody just started pulling trees back and we had little paths,” she said. “My neighborhood, it’s almost like a checkerboard, just rows of houses, and you had to go this way and then you’d have to go this way and then you’d have to go this way because there’d be power lines down and you’d have to swerve to go under them.”
She said it’s the first hurricane she’s been through.
“I left for Gustav and Ike when they came through,” she said. “We were up here, me and my son had evacuated, but those weren’t real bad. I didn’t move down here till after Katrina, so I didn’t go through that one.”
Now that she’s seen the destruction a hurricane can cause, especially one like Ida that ranks among the strongest storms to ever hit the U.S. mainland, Beverly says, “I guarantee you I’ll be more prepared if we have another one! I’ll have me a generator, and I’ll have plenty of gas stocked up because we were trying to leave and I was about to run out of gas.”
One store ran out of gas, so she had to wait until the next day to refuel her car.
“We got in line at 7 o’clock that morning, and at 9 o’clock I pulled up to the pumps and my car was sitting on empty.”
“And then I freaked out because the store wasn’t open and you had to use a card and I didn’t have money on my cards — all I had was cash. So I was freaking out, not knowing what to do, and another lady said I could just pay her cash and she’d use her card for me.”
Then she had to worry that her “poor old car” would make it more than 500 miles to Georgia, with the power steering pump out and a wheel bearing knocking “that gets louder every day.”
Fortunately, they made it to their native Georgia, and with power expected to be restored by Sept. 29, they’ll soon be heading home again — with fond memories of the warm treatment they’ve received in Whitfield County.