Navigating Hurricane Debris
By Kristian Bland
It might not ever become an Olympic sport, but if it did, the people of Southwest Louisiana would be gold medalists in driving around hurricane debris.
The traditional downhill slalom could be modified to be more of a horizontal serpentine type of course wherein the object is to drive from one spot in any hurricane-devastated city to another spot in the same city. Of course, typical downhill skiing between poles doesn’t factor in the extra fun of trying not to run over roofing nails as you dodge the door of a refrigerator that just popped open on the side of the road as you got near it.
The whole thing could be turned into a race — first one to make it to the finish line with no flat tires wins. There could even be little Pumpelly’s, RNR and Discount Tire shops placed at strategic pit stops throughout the course. Naturally, any time a driver needed to pull into one of these shops to get a tire plugged or replaced, they’d run the risk of the pit stop being closed because it’s operating on limited hours and they didn’t call ahead. If one is open, there must be no fewer than 573 people already waiting in line. You know, just to keep everything authentic.
Our tires were tough soldiers, but not many emerged unscathed. In fact, the number of plugged tires currently rolling along the roadways of Southwest Louisiana most likely outnumber the total population of Lake Charles three times over. And we’re still not done.
For weeks after the storms, every trip to the grocery store to try to pick up something for dinner ended the same way: settling on the last dented can of peas hidden on the bottom shelf of some random aisle because everything else had already sold out. Sometimes it was mixed vegetables or a horrifying bit of aluminum with the words “BEEF (WITH JUICES)” stamped on the side. Either way, each trip was rolling the dice on whether or not your tires would make it through another mission.
The nightmare of wayward nails doesn’t stop at our tires, though. A few days ago, I was walking back to my car to load my trunk up with the sweet, sweet groceries I was able to buy without having to settle on a single mysterious can of unlabeled disappointment when I felt a sharp pain in my right foot. Lifting my leg, I discovered a very large nail had firmly implanted itself into the sole of my shoe, impaling my delicate foot inside. I managed to lean against my car long enough to slowly work it loose by wiggling it back and forth while pulling — which, it should be noted, was also occurring inside my foot.
Painful as that was, it had to be done if I had any hope of driving home, seeing as how my shoe had literally just been nailed to my foot. It’s not a parking lot experience I would recommend to anyone. But it did give me a new appreciation for what our tires have been going through since August.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to try to plug my shoe later. But I can’t say as much for a tire I tried (and failed) to plug back in October. The exact details of my failure are of little importance except to say it involved me accidentally missing where I thought the puncture was and creating a new, secondary disaster to complement the original puncture which, it turned out, was nowhere near where I thought it was. Oh, and I somehow tore the rotator cuff of my left shoulder in the process.
If there’s a moral to this story, it’s this: don’t drive after a hurricane. Sure, you can dodge the larger pieces of debris well enough, but it’s those little bits you can’t see that lie in wait for fresh tires to attack like galvanized ambush predators.
Oh, and always spring for the road hazard protection. Always.