Thursday, September 08, 2005

Part 2: The storm begins

Quick recap: Sequestered in the DJ Lounge, I tried to stay sane by playing with the cats. But they were shaking with fear (and possibly cold as the room was so frigid. But I decided to keep it that way in case we lost power.) I got a sweater and blanket and made a coccoon in the chair by the computer. Once in a while, someone would walk in, survey the room, get something, and leave. I watched local news websites and the Weather Channel's site. I checked my e-mail and posted to MySpace a kazilion times. I had 6 hours of this, but at 5 p.m., one hour early, Mark walked in. Someone else had shown up and was going to take over the shift. Then we went to the Hyatt, which is where I left off.

Back in the Dominion Tower, sleep was impossible. Midnight came, and I went back to the computer. But I had exhausted all of the possible sites that would entertain me. I just kept wishing the storm would hurry up and hit land. It was dark outside. Dark and windy. And the storm was still a good 5-6 hours away from us. Around 1 a.m., I got out my textbooks and tried to do some studying. But I fell asleep while reading about teaching literacy. Funny. I woke up about an hour later to complete numbness in my arm, as I had fallen asleep on the desk on my arm. My face was ribbed to match my sweater. The wind was worse, and there was rain beating the windows. I tried to get the cats to eat or use the litter box, but they would have none of that. I put them back in their carriers, and I walked down the hall to the room where Mark was working. I stayed in there for the next two hours. By the time his shift was over, 4 a.m., the storm was still a good bit away, but conditions outside had worsened. Katrina was raging. The wind and the rain whipping against the building were so intense. But things would have to get worse, much worse, before they could get better. And that worried me.

Fears of the unboarded windows in the DJ Lounge prompted us to move our belongings and kittens into the sales area of the Entercom Suites. We chose an empty cubicle near the door, rolled out the sleeping bag, and tried to sleep. This was around 4:45.

By 6 a.m., the full force of Katrina was thrust upon us. I woke up to the sounds of someone yelling, "These windows are going to blow!!! Watch out!! Look at the water!!! We're flooding!!!" Tucked in a cubicle, I just stayed where I was. No water or windows were near us. At 6:15, the whole building swayed noticeably. It was like what I imagine an earthquake would be like. Holding back tears, I moved closer to Mark, who was snoring lightly. Fear coursed through my body. My mind was racing. The sounds of the creaking, swaying building were overpowering. I didn't know what to do. We couldn't go outside; it was far too dangerous. We were only on the 5th floor...if the building would be to collapse, we would probably be killed. I wanted my parents, who had finally found a hotel room (the last available one) at a HOJO in Pensacola around midnight. I wanted them there with me more than I had ever imagined possible. I wanted everything to be okay, but was positive it wouldn't be. While I was laying there, the power went out. With no humming electronics, the storm was more frightening. But the generators kicked in, and I let out a small sigh of relief over the fact that we were keeping electricity. But that sigh was squashed a second later as a crash came from not far away. The first window blew. Water went every where, driven in by 145+ mph winds. The carpets were saturated. People ran everywhere, yelling. At this point, the windows in the sales department systematically blew out. Someone ran over and told us to grab our stuff and move to the center of the suites.

We found an unused production room in the middle of the building. We dropped off the cats first, then went back for the rest. Although the room was soundproof, and it drowned out the sounds of the running, screaming people, the storm was still loud and clear. We saw a flurry of activity outside the window, and learned that the first studio windows of the FM stations were starting to give out.

The windows are double-paned, strong, and soundproof. We watched in horror and awe as the outer windows would get sucked in and out, in and out, in and out. Then, a crack would start spreading across the panes. Then, the sections of the cracking windows would start sucking in and out, in and out, in and out. One by one, or sometimes as a unit, the sections would fly away, never to be seen again. But the windows weren't done. The second window would start doing the same thing as the first. Once the inner window flew into oblivion, the winds raced around the studios, whipping the blinds, the papers, and the furniture around. Some things were sucked out. The doors to the studios would start banging around. Afraid we would lose the doors and have hurricane-force winds throughout the suite, someone found a bunch of bungee cords and rigged up a system connecting the doors and holding them shut. We were afraid that the windows looking into the hallways would go next, but they stayed in tact.

As day broke, we watched out the windows and saw things fly past. We watched the roofing paper billow and try to fly away. water gushed all around, out of holes on the roof, and up pipes on the roof. We still were not halfway through. Almost, but not quite.

Mark decided to forgo sleep in favor of helping out. I curled up with a blanket and a textbook, only to fall asleep again. I woke up about 9 a.m. to the sounds of the storm still raging outside. Mark peeked in on me at one point while I was sleeping and dropped off a Good Humor ice cream treat. I apparently acknowledged it but fell back to sleep and had no memory of it. I woke up excited that the ice cream fairy had visited, even though it was melted. I ate it anyway. By this point, people had been grazing in the kitchen all night, and now, Monday morning, we were running dangerously low on food and water. So the building security agreed to let some Entercom employees into the Sundries shop downstairs to get provisions. They only took the ice cream and dairy items, because those would be spoiled and unsellable after the storm. They inventoried what they took so the company could purchase the food from the lady who owned the shop. They figured she would appreciate some income.

During my short nap, Garland Robinette was on air. The ceiling started pulsating, as the glass conference room windows had blown out and the glass doors to the conference room were trying to do the same. They propped open the doors to the conference room to alleviate that problem, and the WWL Studio, the only one they had boarded up, was about to lose the boards. Garland ran through the building, still broadcasting, and set up in a hallway. WWL was there for the people.

Stay tuned for Part 3: The ending of the storm was really only the beginning.


Mrs. Ryan Dunn said...

I am choked up just reading this. Goddamn, you guys are brave!

Misti said...

Wow. This is just so, I can't believe this at all. You guys went through hell...