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Eyes on Katrina

A South Mississippi hurricane journal

Sunday, September 04, 2005

A turtle's tale 

Kelly Boler, a Sun Herald stringer, talked with a tourist from Wales back in July when Hurricane Dennis was coming ashore. He, like so many others, had become complacent about hurricane warnings. He sent us this: On July 10, as Hurricane Dennis approached, you published a short item about me by Kelly Boler. As I remember, it began something like: "Among the tourists here in Biloxi, nobody is more bewildered than Gabriel Jacobs, from Wales ..." Yes, I was indeed bewildered. I just couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. I even said to Kelly that I thought the whole thing might be some kind of hoax. As I think she reported in her piece, I told her that the last hurricane we experienced in the UK was back in 1987. I remember it well because it damaged the roof of the building in which I was supposed to give a lecture on the very day of the storm. The lecture was cancelled. That was about it. Clearing up took a day or so, and within less than a week all was back to normal and the whole incident forgotten. That's the reason for which I really couldn't grasp why people were getting so uptight about Dennis, and particularly since that July day was so beautiful, so calm. While Kelly was writing her piece, I was mowing her lawn under a cloudless sky. Looking up every now and then to catch my breath in the airless heat, I thought that this Dennis thing just couldn't be what they were claiming it might be, very windy and very wet. When Kelly said, "We're not going to evacuate, we're going to sit it out here", I thought that was for certain the right decision. It turned out to be so. Dennis was nothing more than a damp squib. All the preparation -- placing the lawn mower and the garbage bin securely in the yard shed, stocking up on bottled water, cans of tuna, cooked chicken, and potato chips -- was a waste of time and nervous energy. And the piece she published, of course, amply vindicated my skepticism. So, when I called her Sunday night, and she told me that Katrina was a bad one, and on it way, you won't find it all that hard to believe that I reacted in much the same way as with Dennis, if not more so, having been so right that time. But this time, as the whole world would know if they knew me, I was so, so wrong. When I spoke to Kelly on Sunday, she told me about a piece she had submitted to you in her All in a Day's Work series. It's the one about the acquarium, the one with Loretta the Turtle, which hasn't yet appeared, and which doubtless will never appear since I have just seen on TV some aerial photography of Biloxi and Gulfport. You could clearly see what was left of the acquarium -- not much. If Loretta didn't survive, she may not be as sadly missed as you might expect. Kelly told me that while the sharks were comparatively docile, the turtle was altogether a pretty nasty piece of work, regularly scaring the guy who cleans the tank and taking chunks out of sharks as they swam by her. Websites are running the story about moving dolphins from Marine Life into a hotel swimming pool. If Loretta did survive, all I can say is that I hope they haven't parked her in the same hotel. I have spent the last two days and nights trying unsucessfully to contact Kelly every which way. I know she didn't leave Biloxi or Ocean Springs, but where she is now I haven't the faintest idea, nor do I know if she is alive, injured or dead. I have never wished more than I do at this moment that I knew how to pray. Especially so because, unlike Loretta, Kelly can't swim. Yours, Gabriel Jacobs University of Wales Swansea We'll let you know if we hear from Kelly. The dolphins and other animals from Marine Life have been transported to a safer facility in Florida. Let's hope Loretta is safe, as well.

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Don Hammack

Don Hammack is a staff writer for the Sun Herald. He can be reached at

Sara Greer

Sara Greer is a news assistant for the Sun Herald.

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