with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

One Month After Hurricane Katrina

I finally got a full hour of exercise this morning. It was amazing. I sweated and hated every moment of it, and feel much better for it. I finally pulled my little potted garden set into place after a month tied to trees behind the trailer, and caught up on my hand washing and cleaning up a little. Amazing. Only two minor interruptions and one huge computer catastrophe! Looks like this might be a quiet morning.

I sat down at the computer and checked comments and found that my friend Westi had left a comment on my recent post, Something is Rotten in Here, saying “sounds like you need a HUG!”. Of course, I burst into more tears.

Has it really been 30 days since we went into panic mode, worked overtime to jam in a new hot water heater and raced out of the Gulf Coast to Atlanta as Hurricane Rita reached Category 4 directly on track for Mobile, Alabama? It did shift towards New Orleans but ended up smacking the hell out of Mississippi, much ignored by the news media.

We stayed in Atlanta at a horrid overpriced campground, just because they had free WIFI, for a week and a half and then headed back as soon as they got the electricity turned on. What should have been a four to six hour drive back was a nightmare of blown tires, bend tire rims, tread left along the highway, and a lot of time and money wasted. While the evacuation and return was filled with major stress, the horrors of what we saw when we arrived made that kind of stress look insignificant.

Thirty days.

I heard an interview this morning on NPR with a mayor of a small town in Louisiana. He was asked how he had fared in the week since Hurricane Rita hit. He said it felt more like one very long day instead of a series of days called a week. That’s what these past 30 days feels like.

The electricity keeps going on and off and on and off and on and off, sometimes for a second, sometimes for a few hours. The past three days, it seems to be steady, but we’re now having power outages inside the trailer. We will try to trace it tomorrow. With all the spikes, surges, and outages, we’re sure it’s taking a toll on our electrical system. For me, it means I go two to four days between checking email and my websites. I write in my journal and post it to my websites when I get a few precious bits of time on the Internet with stable electricity and Internet connection.

On a group mailing list, someone accused me of some ridiculous stuff based on the fact that my silence “said” something. Hell, it says that I’m not online. It says that I didn’t know anything was being discussed. It says nothing. Why should not saying anything mean something? Amazing what people make up in their heads with little or no evidence.

I stare at the 250 plus emails that come flooding in when I do get online long enough to run email, and I’m overwhelmed. This is added to the 200 plus from the time before, and the time before that. I don’t even want to run email tomorrow for fear of more emails that demand my attention. I barely have time to read, let along respond, so there is a lot that is being put off. I’m paying attention to only the most critical things.

Thirty days and we’re still in what we call fireman mode. We put out the fires we see and leave the rest smoldering until we have time.

We filter all the water coming out of the faucet outside, and then filter the drinking water a second time. Normally our drinking water filters last 2 months, but I’ve already been through two filters in these past 30 days. The water has flakes of something floating in it and is a bit cloudy. Even through our filtration system, in the right light I can see a slight sheen of oil patterns on the surface of my glass of water. Maybe it’s just oil from my skin as I sip the water. Maybe it’s something else. I’m sure it’s “safe”, but you never know. We’re paranoid about things like that.

We bought a mold kit when attacked by a molding something in the trailer. I came in about 11PM last night from working in the campground office and Brent told me that it had been four days since the test and we were positive.

I had slept maybe two hours the night before and been out of the house before six in the morning to run to the vet to get medicine for Kohav and be back in time for Brent to take the truck to work. It was over an hour past my bedtime and my head pounded with exhaustion.

I didn’t understand what test and if positive was a good or bad thing. A test he had to do for work? Nah? With the FAA? Maybe I missed something? What the hell is he talking about?

“The mold test.”

“What mold test?”

“The mold test from the kit we got to test the mold in the trailer.”

Light bulb went off. “Oh, that test.”

“It’s positive.”

Mold Test Kit shows positive for mold, photograph by Lorelle VanFossenHe held up the mold test petri dish and sure enough, two patches of white mold and a big spread of black yuck had formed in the clear plastic dish.

“What does that mean?”

“It means we have mold in the air.”

“So we’re going to die?”

“Sooner or later, but right now, I don’t know.”

“Are you sure this is mold from the moldy thing we found or mold in the air? Is it harmful or not?”

Then the interrogation really began. We can hardly remember what we did 10 minutes ago let along four days ago, so we started questioning our memories.

“Did you do the test before or after we found the rotting thing?”

“I did it after we bought the HEPA filter.”

“We bought that the same day as the mold test.”

“So did we find the rotting thing before or after that?”


“Okay, so when?”

“When what?”

“Did we do the test before or after we turned on the air filter?”

“Probably after.”

“Oh, that’s right. I turned it off and put the petri dish near the air conditioner to blow around the air into the dish. I did it for two hours, following the instructions.”

“Yes, but was that before or after we found the rotting thing?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Let me see. We shopped for motor homes, had the search-from-hell for lunch, bought the mold test and filter, came home, set up the filter, did the test – ah, then I had to go up to the campground office for the night.”

Brent cleans out the kitchen cupboards looking for something rotting, photograph by Lorelle VanFossenAnd we got up early the next morning and spent all day cleaning out the cupboards.”

“And that’s when we found the rotting thing.”



“So why did we want to know this?”

“I forgot.”

“Um, I think it was because of the mold test. It’s positive.”

“Oh, that’s right. So what does that mean?”

“It means we have mold.”

“Is it going to kill us?”

“I don’t know if it is good or bad mold.”

“Is there good mold?”


“Give me the instructions.”

“I gave them to you four days ago.”

“Where did I put them?”

“How would I know?”

“I don’t remember you giving them to me.”

“You said, ‘give them to me because you will lose them’.”

“So I lost them? Is that what you are saying?”

“No, I’m only telling you what you said.”

“Oh, they are here in front of me on my desk.”

“Then you didn’t lose them.”

“Don’t push while you’re ahead.”

“What does it say? Is it good or bad mold?”

“It says we have to mail it in with a check for $30 and they will tell us if it is good or bad mold.”

“So we don’t know.”

“Only that we have mold.”

“But do we have mold because it caught the yuck from the moldy thing in the cupboard before we got rid of it and do we still have mold in the air now? Or because it sat in the sunshine for four days in the window because I forgot to move it?”

“I don’t know. What do the instructions say?”

“It doesn’t say. I think anything growing in a tiny greenhouse in direct sunlight will grow really well.”


“So do you think we still have mold?”

“We can send it in for further testing.”

“Yes, but that costs $30.”

“And will it tell us that we had mold in the air when the test was done, or that there is still mold in the air?”

“I think we need to do another test. This way, we will know for sure.”

“But this is Mobile, Alabama. It is hot, humid, and there are mushrooms growing everywhere outside and mold, mildew, and fungi on the trees and on anything that sits outside for more than three hours. How are we really going to know if the mold it is finding is inside the trailer or just in the air?”

That stumped Brent. It’s hard to argue with me when I’m really right. We really don’t know. We live in a tiny tin box that is often more outside than inside. How will we ever know for sure?

All I know is that it doesn’t smell and more and we’re continuing to run the HEPA filter to clean the air out. We’ll buy another mold test kit this weekend and try again.

This is just a prime example of how stupid our conversations get when the stress level is out of control and exhaustion is our constant companion.

Thirty days of this. All one blur day that happens to consist of thirty separate days.


  • sally
    Posted October 13, 2006 at 16:06 | Permalink

    hello, just wanna know more bout the katrina hurricane ,i mean specific detail bout the day,place …i mean general information bout that catastrophe hope u can help me before the cumin tuesday than anyway for givin me sometimes to read my emial
    sincerly yours,

  • Posted October 13, 2006 at 19:47 | Permalink

    I have pictures and details all over the site, so I’m not sure what information you want unless you are more specific. I also wrote about the hurricane one year later, if that helps.

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