The sky has darkened. A brisk east wind is cutting through. NOAA reports Rita is starting to show some signs of fatigue, becoming slightly less organized. Such news has a context: It only gives hope that the deepness and severity of the impact could lose a bit of its edge, like a pulled punch. By Mike Tyson. Any tender mercy would be appreciated, but this will be anything but a gentle afternoon rain.
We're enjoying what will likely be the last few hours of electricity. Rather than drinking the cold sodas, I'm drinking the warm bottled water, thinking I might appreciate the remnant coolness of a soda in the dark, un-cooled bowels of the newspaper building tomorrow. In the books behind my desk, I came across a bit of pretty good Hemingway advice: Always describe the weather. I laugh. Small comforts.
We're continuing to gather information throughout the region, before we batten down the hatches. We're also getting calls from other reporters, editors and producers. I'm doing a live TV news show by phone to Moscow, Russia, in a few minutes. CBS called to confirm a report that we had an editor planning to ride out Rita in a bank vault. Not true, although one of our reporters will be among our emergency first-responders aboard a cargo ship in the Port of Beaumont when the storm hits. A wild ride with the people who'll deal first with the aftermath. The bank vault idea sounds a little Geraldo-esque ... maybe he can do it.
We are all girding ourselves for the job ahead. Katrina taught us many lessons. One was to be prepared to see something you never expected to see. Your workplace under water, your supermarket turned to twisted metal and rotting meat, your neighborhood reduced to scrap lumber, six feet of water in your bedroom, your barber's bloated corpse floating down Main Street. If it happens the way it happened three weeks ago, it's all possible and I wonder how we'll deal with it. Not in print, but in our hearts.
That's why we seek small comforts. A tiring storm. The promise of a cool (if not cold) soda in the dark. The possibility that after all the sound and fury, the place and the people will still be mostly whole, and we'll get back to telling stories a little more prosaic, a little more mundane than a Category 4 hurricane's first-degree rape of our place and lives.