While the anniversary of Katrina's final landfall is not until Tuesday, the storm memories harbored by many survivors and refugees begin on this Friday night a year ago.
Those who were prudent and cautious by nature had started paying attention to the storm--really paying attention--earlier in the day. They had evacuated once already that summer, for Dennis, and the year before for Ivan, both of which hit the Florida panhandle. The Mississippi and Louisiana coasts were largely spared by those two earlier storms, and many residents there were perhaps reluctant to pack up again. The only thing more tedious than evacuating for a hurricane is evacuating for a hurricane that ends up striking somewhere else.
But if you had ever experienced the traffic jams during a hurricane evacuation, especially leaving the cities along the Gulf Coast, then you knew that you better get out while the getting was good. And Friday night, the getting was still good.
Traffic was a little heavier than usual, but drive times were about normal. Gas was available. Weather conditions were good. If you wanted to avoid the chaos that the weekend might bring, you went home from work, packed the car, and headed out before dark. If you had the means to do so. If you had someplace to go.