When I dream about Hurricane Katrina (and I still do), it always starts with the refrigerators. Kenmore, GE, Whirlpool, Frigidaire, Amana. Hundreds of thousands of these abandoned appliances stood duct-taped shut on the curbs and yards of homes throughout New Orleans. Many were spray-painted with whimsical or forbidding messages. “Funky. Not in a good way.” “Free Beer and Maggots.” “Smells like FEMA.” “The Bowels of Hell await you within!!”
Katrina refrigerators (it’s a thing; Google it) are not the only or even the most dramatic example of the perils of power outages in extreme weather. Recall the chaos at Memorial Medical Center, where floodwaters marooned dozens of elderly patients on sweat-soaked bedsheets, without electricity or running water, until they were finally rescued or died. But the refrigerator meme is what haunts me because I’m a New Orleanian, and 11 years ago this month, I lived it.