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Southern Girl Academy: Hurricane Parties

Anyone who says they’re not afraid at the time of a hurricane is either a fool or a liar, or a little bit of both.
— Anderson Cooper

Fair warning here – if you’re here this week thinking you’re gonna get a recipe for the (in)famous New Orleans libation known as the hurricane, you’re better off elsewhere. Visit DrinksMixer.com and pick your favorite.

Admittedly, the concoction of rum, amaretto, and triple sec is uniquely suited to a southern palate – one that prefers sweet tea to tea-colored water and bourbon to vodka. But this post is about much more than the unfortunately named drink.

Hurricane parties don’t revolve around getting drunk in the Quarter. Instead, they focus on families hunkering down against the forces of evil otherwise known as the hurricane. In southern Louisiana, the hurricane party has become an opportunity to gather together, play games, pray, and sometimes drink while you wait out the storm.

Matriarchs have hurricane party planning down to an art, as any good Southern woman would. The first time a weatherman mentions a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico likely headed to the coast, moms call their kids away at college to come home.

Note: Mothers in the northern part of the Gulf South do the same thing. They just want you far away from the storm. They haven’t lived through one, and they don’t want their babies to do so either. Unfortunately, their desire isn’t always fulfilled. Spending time with Cajun college roommates and their families is so much better than visiting your Southern Baptist Mamaw. Trust me… sorry Mom.

As the storm nears, the largest home on a family’s homestead – many extended families live close to one another – becomes hurricane headquarters. Beer, food, cards, pennies, water, buckets, and other necessities are assembled. If you’re really lucky, the rural house with well water will have a swimming pool so that toilets can be flushed even when the electricity is gone.

Family members assemble, and the last piece of the party puzzle is in place. Daddies gather their babies up, and Mamas work to cook something before wind knocks power out. Anticipation builds, and everyone is truly grateful loved ones are near.

But that love doesn’t always run deep throughout the hurricane party experience. When the lights go out, and sometimes the water doesn’t run, the cards and pennies – along with bloodthirsty players – make an appearance. Bourre, a card game like spades in that the players aim to win tricks, is the traditional game for Cajun families, especially when they’re gathered for hurricane safety. Warning: you can lose your shirt quickly in this game and your penny stash might have to last for days. Play smart and don’t ever gloat over a won hand. Your luck will change.

Bourre and other games hold boredom at bay until the all clear is issued. Sometimes, a kite or two is brought out, and the adults will climb on the roof to take advantage of the hurricane-force winds. Folks from further north will probably regard that with skepticism, but the South is composed of “freaks.” The hurricane-party point is not to be wild or dangerous, it’s to pass the time enjoyably.

These gatherings turn a time that could be incredibly scary for everyone involved into a time of bonding. Hurricane parties allow us to learn about the differences and similarities between generations. They force us into close proximity with those we might not like all that much because of past transgressions.

They make us “make up,” and therein lies their value. An extended family – with friends too – becomes closer. And all that togetherness can be attributed to something named Andrew, or Claire, or Hugo.

Come to think of it, hurricane season starts in June. I better start saving pennies now.

Tonya Oaks Smith has spent most of her adult life smoothing frayed edges, herding wet and hungry cats, breaking down silos, and perfecting the #facepalm – all while dancing backwards and in heels with a big smile on her face. She’s a preacher’s granddaughter from Calhoun, Louisiana, so Tonya knows both her Jell-O molds and Jell-O shots.


5 Responses

  1. Do such parties also excist for tornados? All I know is, I could have used the company and the alcohol when I was fretting over the Little Rock tornado siren going off. That sound is so eerie, and being from the East Coast, I was not used to it! Never got used to it, either. Called every friend I had in Little Rock for assurance when I was hunkering down with my dog at home during those things.

  2. I haven’t seen a tornado party as of yet. Tornados scare me too – mostly because there’s not the same warning as for a hurricane. Call me next time and we’ll grab a kite and some rum when the sirens sound. 🙂

  3. […] parties. I think they’re cool, but probably not for the reason that everyone assumes. Take a read and then tell me what you […]

  4. I am proud of my southern heritage. It can neither be bought nor taught — it’s our’s by the grace of God. To be sure, I could have been a “Scarlet” had the timin’ been right. One of my most favorite places to go is an old grave yard — the folks there have all the time in the world to tell you about a time gone by — a time of big old oak trees, fried chicken & petticoats. Sometimes I yearn to be a southern belle with nothing more to worry about than which frock to wear to the next big event. Don’t misunderstand me — I can stand my ground with the best of them. You see I have Southern Tact — that’s the ability to tell a man to go to hell and help him enjoy the trip. He never knows what hit him ’til he hits the ground! I never tire of old family stories. This new world we live in today doesn’t put nearly enough importance on family. Time is too short to waste on being mad about things that God forgave us for long ago & that won’t mean a “heel of beans” when we get to Glory. I’m weary & need rest. God has seen fit to give me some heavy challenges over the last years. But I know by all that is Holy He also gives me the grace to bear them. One day, in Glory, He’ll let me know why, but for now, I have to trust that He knows best. Ya’ll come. Martha Stewart doesn’t live at my house, but there’s always a broom at the door so you can make your way in. Anyway what’s a little dust going to hurt — it’s just a protective covering for the furniture!

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