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updated: 8/26/2012 7:57 PM

Sox' Peavy thinks about family as Isaac approaches

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  • White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy, who grew up in Mobile, Ala., knows frightening devastation that hurricanes cause.

    White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy, who grew up in Mobile, Ala., knows frightening devastation that hurricanes cause.
    Associated Press file


The storm was very much on Jake Peavy's mind Sunday morning.

But not the one that dumped rain all over the Chicago area and delayed the White Sox and Mariners for several hours a couple of times on the South Side.

Sure, it messed up a travel day for the Sox and made their trek to Baltimore difficult and tiring, but it's not what had Peavy worried.

He woke up Sunday to word from his brother in Mobile, Ala., that Tropical Storm Isaac was drawing a bead on the Gulf Coast and taking direct aim at Southern Alabama, Southern Mississippi and Southeast Louisiana.

If that sounds familiar, it should.

"That's exactly where Hurricane Katrina hit," Peavy said. "It's frightening for anyone who lived through it."

Isaac is expected to hit the Gulf Coast late Tuesday or early Wednesday, which marks the seventh anniversary of Katrina.

"My brother said everyone's getting out of Dodge. Some of the gas stations in Mobile are already out of gas," Peavy said, shaking his head. "I think people learned their lesson from last time. They knew for days that it was coming. They had all that warning. A lot of people tried to tough it out and a lot of people died."

Katrina peaked as a Category 5 hurricane in the Gulf and made landfall as a Category 3, while maintaining hurricane-strength winds 150 miles inland, as far north as Peavy's home in Tuscaloosa.

Isaac is projected to become a Category 2 hurricane before it reaches the Gulf Coast. Of course, it can decrease in speed and dimension -- or strengthen.

"All of my family that still lives in Mobile is right on the Bay, so they're all headed for my house two hours north," said Peavy, who was born and raised in Mobile. "This is serious stuff. You can replace property. You can't replace lives."

The flooding and destruction in New Orleans from Katrina dominated the news for weeks, but the devastation right next door in Southern Mississippi and Alabama was just as bad, and in some cases worse.

A couple years after Katrina, I saw the damage in Mississippi, in places like Biloxi, Gulfport and Pass Christian, just off the Bay of St. Louis, where the storm surge brought in 40 feet of water.

Everything for miles inland was flattened, and seven years later residents are still rebuilding.

"I think a lot of people don't realize what happened in Mississippi and Alabama," Peavy said. "We had significant damage at my house and I'm two hours from the water, and it was nothing compared to what happened down south.

"Down on the coast, I have a lot of family and friends who lost everything. My mom didn't have power for weeks, and you just can't imagine what it's like living without running water or electricity for so long.

"If you haven't seen the aftermath you can't believe it. You look around and you don't even know where to start. If there's anything left standing, you can't do anything about it.

"The streets are filled with debris, power poles everywhere, and the infrastructure is gone. It's all gone. The towns down there had to rebuild basically from scratch."

After Katrina, Peavy tried driving around to see the damage, and where cars could travel the obliteration of cities was staggering.

"I saw in Biloxi the casino boats. The Gulf just came in and picked up these boats and moved them half a mile over the interstate," Peavy said. "You just can't believe the power of these hurricanes until you've seen what's left afterward."

Growing up in Mobile, Peavy recalls his family getting together with other families in the sturdiest house on the block and riding out the storms.

"They called them 'hurricane parties' because they didn't want to scare us kids," Peavy said. "We didn't know any better. We didn't know how dangerous it was."

Peavy said his parents used to talk about Hurricane Frederic, a Category 3 storm that hit the Gulf Coast two years before Peavy was born. At the time, it was the most damaging and costly storm to hit the Gulf Coast.

"We didn't know all that we know now and didn't have the advance notice," Peavy said. "Now, there's no excuse not to get out of there, and still some people will stay and risk their lives."

So as the White Sox endured some showers, delays and difficult travel Sunday night, Peavy kept it all in perspective and kept an eye on the news and his focus on text messages from family and friends.

"When you live down there, you pay very close attention to every storm that gets named," Peavy said. "It's part of life down there and you sort of get used to it. It's the price you pay for living in a place you love, but it doesn't mean it's not scary.

"For the people who lived through Katrina, or make it through any hurricane, it's the scariest thing there is. It's a truly frightening time. All you can do is keep your fingers crossed and get the heck out of there before it's too late."

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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