50 years ago, Hurricane Betsy offered a foretaste of Katrina’s destruction _lowres

This is the way part of Grand Isle looked after Hurricane Betsy almost 20 years ago. Other parts of the Island were much harder hit. (Associated Press Photo) Reprinted SA 08-18-1985; 09-18-1988. Keyword Weather, History

As a youngster growing up in Crowley, I knew that summertime was a time of sitting on the porch to get air conditioning, battling mosquitoes and hoping that hurricanes would go elsewhere. I distinctly remember several of them, including l957’s Hurricane Audrey, but the one that affected me the most was l965’s Hurricane Betsy.

Prior to my high school graduation, I was offered employment in Washington, D.C., and was scheduled to begin on Sept. 13. Several days before my departure, Hurricane Betsy began to act up, but I denied the possibility of her being a threat to my Greyhound bus ride into a new beginning. As luck would have it, shortly before 7 a.m. on my farewell morning, radio station KSIG warned listeners to take precautions because Betsy was coming.

Against better judgment, I walked out onto the porch and soon felt myself and my carefully packed suitcase being slammed into the screen door. My brown paper bag containing a bologna sandwich, chips and a honey bun was blown upward into the great beyond! Rain unmercifully pounded on the tin roof of our house throughout the day, while I sat on the sofa contemplating being docked annual leave before actually earning it or maybe even getting fired for using the weather as my absence excuse.

In spite of the trash that blocked our route, Poppa Eddie used his driving expertise to get me to the bus station in the nick of time the next morning. Little did I realize that this little trip was only the beginning of an odyssey that would be made treacherous by flooded roads, uprooted trees, dangling utility lines, abandoned vehicles and wandering critters of all kind. I still thank God for the military gentleman becoming my seating partner in New Orleans and for his wonderful conversation, those delicious snacks that he shared and for that naturally protective air that was present to the end.

Fifty years have passed since Mother Nature challenged my journey into independence, then so kindly compromised. The professional expertise that I gained from my workplace, including my boss’s legacy, my immediate supervisors and the historical events that occurred while being employed in our nation’s capital, prepared me to face numerous challenges that I later experienced as an Acadiana classroom instructor.

Barbara Spencer

retired high school instructor