YORKTON - The Yorkton Junior Terriers are celebrating 50 years in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League this season.
To mark the milestone Yorkton This Week is digging into its archives and pulling out a random Terrier-related article from the past five decades of reporting on the team, and will be running one each week, just as it originally appeared.
This feature will appear weekly over the entire season in the pages of The Marketplace.
Week #3 comes from Sept. 14, 2005.
Hurricane Katrina nearly wiped New Orleans off the map, and former Yorkton Terrier coach Lee Odelein was among those to lose everything but his life.
Odelein lived and worked in the famous French Quarter district of New Orleans, and while he and his neighbours were warned Katrina was coming, he decided to wait it out.
“We’d had threats before,” said Odelein who has lived in the city the past 18 months. “Last year we had one and people tried to evacuate and it was a total nightmare, and then we only got a few drops of water.”
So while experts were predicting Katrina to be the worst hurricane ever to hit the region, Odelein said many decided to simply wait and see. He reminded the French Quarter itself was established in the 1800s and has seen many hurricanes come and go. Buildings in the French Quarter are brick construction, and built wall-to-wall so everything is pretty solid, with underground electricity service, something most of New Orleans did not have.
“It’s generally pretty safe,” he said. “But, this storm was 75 years over due too.”
Even with that, when Katrina hit, Odelein said he knew it.
“I was sleeping and it woke me up. It shook the building,” he said, adding though the actual storm was not so severe where he lived. “It was more the effects of the aftermath.”
The aftermath of course was the rising flood waters which would leave virtually the entire city under at least some level of water.
With no vehicle Odelein was basically stuck in his second floor apartment, while chaos swirled throughout the city streets just outside his windows.
“There was no water, no power, no sewer,” he said adding without power for television “we didn’t really know the extent of the damage.”
The morning after the hurricane hit Odelein said he did take a short walk, and was amazed to see the way big trees were totally uprooted, and the damage wind had done to some buildings.
“But, as time went on it just got worse and worse,” he said.
Odelein said he had managed to fill his bath tub and sink with water, and had some food, but the situation was beginning to look grim. It was basically a case of having to go to the bathroom in a bag, and the streets were becoming filthy messes.
And then the looters came out of the woodwork too.
“Guys were walking down the streets with TVs or 10 pairs of Nikes. What were they going to do with a TV?” said Odelein. “… But, there was nothing you could do because most people carry guns down here. It was just a nightmare.”
The biggest target for looters were convenience stores as people went after cigarettes and alcohol.
Odelein said the looting was perhaps the saddest part of the whole situation because it showed the worst side of people.
“Usually in a crisis people pull together,” he said.
Odelein said the situation was made worse by an apparent total lack of a plan to aid the situation.
“there was total chaos in the city. There was no organization at all,” he said.
There was frustration too by the seeming lack of a plan to help.
“You’d look up in the sky and see military, coast guard and media helicopters but they didn’t seem to be doing anything,” he said.
So Odelein found himself in his apartment with no utilities, 100 degree temperatures outside, and the growing threat of diseases and looters weighing on his mind.
“I was starting to get worried. I was wondering if I could get out, and how I could get out,” he said.
Odelein said it was also hard on his family because for two days he had no way to contact them to tell them he was alive, making for some difficult times for his parents watching reports of the devastation on the television.
Finally, officials came to Odelein’s area and him, “You really need to get out of here.” He said it was a case where there was a growing fear of disease from the dead bodies floating in the water, the burgeoning mosquito populations which could carry the diseases, and rats.
“All the rats high-tail it to higher ground. They’re a real problem here,” he said, adding he fully expects a disease outbreak to be the next blow to the area. “… It would floor me if something like that doesn’t happen.”
A store owner in Odelein’s area was leaving the city, and they made room for him in the back of their Datsun truck.
“There were six of us in the back of the Datsun,” he said., adding he got out “with the clothes on my back and a small backpack.”
Odelein was dropped off just outside Baton Rouge where brother Lyle, the long-time National Hockey League player drove in from Dallas to pick him up.
“I was safe, but I lost everything. It was on the second floor so it wouldn’t be flooded, but the looters would have got it.”
Odelein said he has no idea what the future holds for New Orleans, or whether he wants to be a part of that future.
“I don’t know what they’re going to do,” he said, adding “the French Quarter is an unbelievable place, really unbelievable, but it’s still under sea level.”
So Odelein is now back at his parent’s farm at Quill Lake where he will help with harvest, and determine what to do next.
“I’m waiting to see,” he said, adding if things settle down “I’ll go see if I have anything left, and salvage what I can.”
Odelein also said the next time a warning comes he will heed it.
“If there’s a warning, I’m going to get out,” he said.