Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Reporter finds Southern kindness while covering Hurricane Isaac

Brittany Alana Davis and Rhonda Gamble at an American Legion branch in Waveland, Miss. Gamble provided Davis refuge and shrimp Creole during Hurricane Isaac.

Henry Wilkinson | Special to the Times

Brittany Alana Davis and Rhonda Gamble at an American Legion branch in Waveland, Miss. Gamble provided Davis refuge and shrimp Creole during Hurricane Isaac.

WAVELAND, Miss.

As Hurricane Isaac swept through coastal Mississippi Wednesday night, I sat at Rhonda Gamble's dining room table trying hard to ignore the smell of spicy shrimp Creole.

My stomach felt empty after a day of hurricane reporting. And as Gamble chopped celery, bell pepper and onions — the trinity of Creole cooking — I ached to finish my story so I could eat.

"I'm done!" I announced, as I sent the story to my editor.

"Then you're ready for shrimp Creole?" asked Gamble, who I'd met only hours before. "I also made apricot nectar cake."

That was the start of a cozy evening in Waveland, about 40 miles east of New Orleans. Storm flooding prevented me from returning to my hotel, and Gamble gave me pajamas, a toothbrush and a fresh towel.

We watched the Republican National Convention as we talked politics, family and hurricanes.

In Waveland, they know a thing or two about hurricanes.

This 6,500-person town was ground zero for Hurricane Katrina, and for Isaac, which this week flooded local roads and toppled street signs.

It's a place where everybody knows each other's business, and "if they don't, they make it up," Gamble said.

They also help each other, especially during storms. Lucky for me, that kindness extends to strangers.

Gamble, 54, and her husband Jay had spotted me that afternoon — soaked and somewhat alarmed — at Scafidi's Wheel-In diner, the only place open during the storm.

"I knew you weren't from around he-yah," she later teased, with her New Orleans drawl. "You looked like you could use some help."

Her instincts were right. Minutes earlier, I'd survived a harrowing clash with Isaac.

In search of a good story, I was making my way toward the neighboring town of Pass Christian, which suffered devastating floods during Katrina.

I began to have second thoughts as I climbed the 85-foot Bay St. Louis Bridge, the wind battering my rented Nissan Armada. As the bridge descended, I slammed on my brakes and cursed.

The St. Louis Bay sprayed violently in the air as it engulfed the road. I couldn't reverse because I was exiting a bridge, but I also couldn't drive into the rushing water. It was a flash flood.

I shifted the SUV into 4-wheel drive, catapulted over the median and forced myself to breathe as I drove back over the bridge. I stepped into the diner to slow my beating heart.

In a stroke of serendipity, that's where I met Gamble.

"You're welcome back here anytime," she said, as she hugged me good night. "The door is always open."

Reporter finds Southern kindness while covering Hurricane Isaac 08/30/12 [Last modified: Thursday, August 30, 2012 10:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Joe Henderson: Other good works can't balance theft from vulnerable victims

    Columns

    What price can you put on your good name?

    This renovated group home once was operated by HARC. The group's former CEO Richard Lilliston was credited with raising millions for the agency but has been sentenced to prison for stealing Social Security from clients with developmental disabilities. [Times file]
  2. Five reasons why Kentucky can beat Florida for the first time since 1986

    College

    By Matt Baker

    GAINESVILLE — Florida's 30-game winning streak over Kentucky is one of the most impressive feats in the country.

    Florida Gators offensive lineman Martez Ivey (73) celebrates Florida Gators running back Mark Thompson's  (24) touch down in the first quarter, putting Florida on the board 6-0 during the game between the University of Florida and the University of Kentucky in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Kentucky 45-7. ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times

  3. Once targeted by the Bucs, Dalvin Cook thrills for the Vikings

    Bucs

    How good would the Bucs be with running back Dalvin Cook?

    Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) slips a tackle by Steelers strong safety Sean Davis (28) to score a touchdown Sunday in Pittsburgh. [AP photo]
  4. Review: More than 20 years later, 'RENT' still matters

    Stage

    TAMPA — Two decades after Rent shook up Broadway with a starkly joyous musical that demanded to be recognized, a nostalgic tour is taking audiences back.

    The 20th anniversary tour of RENT, shown in 2016, comes to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts Sept. 19-24, 2017. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
  5. Dennis Miller, headed to Tampa with Bill O'Reilly: 'We don't know each other that well'

    Events

    Dennis Miller often gets cast as the odd comic out these days.

    Dennis Miller will perform with Bill O'Reilly at the Spin Stops Here Tour at Amalie Arena in Tampa. [Spuffy Productions]