16 years after Katrina, Gulf Coast residents face trauma from Hurricane Ida: NPR


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New Orleans residents Jordan Bridges and David Jones are packing sandbags as they prepare to ride out of the storm. Bridges described Katrina as a “stain” in the soul of the city.

Aubri Juhasz / WWNO


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New Orleans residents Jordan Bridges and David Jones are packing sandbags as they prepare to ride out of the storm. Bridges described Katrina as a “stain” in the soul of the city.

Aubri Juhasz / WWNO

At the western end of New Orleans, residents rushed to drive down a lean residential road along the embankment on Saturday afternoon. They came here to pick up sandbags to build flood protection barricades around their homes ahead of Ida, which became a Category 4 hurricane on Sunday. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards earlier called it’s “one of the strongest storms to hit Louisiana since at least the 1850s.”

For many residents, a “sandbag” is a normal ritual for any storm preparation. But the intensity of the storm and the sight of neighbors and friends evacuating are causing trauma from Hurricane Katrina. A Category 3 storm hit this the same weekend 16 years ago, killing over 1,800 people and inflicting enormous damage along the coast.

Algerian checkpoint resident Dionne Allen was evacuated during Katrina. But she decided to stay during Ida’s time.

Dionne Allen, 36, says she called hotels to try to evacuate, but everything was booked.

Aubri Juhasz / WWNO


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Dionne Allen, 36, says she called hotels to try to evacuate, but everything was booked.

Aubri Juhasz / WWNO

“I’m just here to get sandbags for this storm that came out of nowhere,” Allen said. “And not to mention during Katrina’s anniversary, it’s all pretty surreal.”

Allen said she just hopes it won’t be as bad as Katrina.

“After calling the hotels for two days, I discovered that they were all basically full. It is not so easy for some individuals to leave financially … if not mentally, but also physically,” she said.

Officials in the Gulf states were already preparing for the worst before the storm hit.

Governor Edwards activated the entire Louisiana National Guard with 5,000 guards at his disposal and requested funding from FEMA. In neighboring Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves took similar steps.

And in Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency.

Some chose to listen to notices of voluntary and mandatory evacuations in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi. And some could not leave for financial or other reasons.

The decision-making process evokes feelings of déjà vou in many, such as Chris Dier, a teacher in New Orleans, who left during Katrina’s time as a child. His school was destroyed.

“I teach young and old. I definitely have those memories when they went to the intercom and said the school would be closed on Monday and Tuesday. So I think it’s just up to you. I think it will always stay for a long time,” he said.

For some, those feelings are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as nurse Rachel Adcock residing in Ocean Springs, Missio, on the Gulf Coast.

Adcock stayed through Katrina and remembers seeing the graves taken out of the ground. A large number of pandemic deaths, especially in the south, exacerbate anxiety about the potential consequences of the storm.

“COVID-19 has hit Ocean Springs hard. We even have friends who are currently in intensive care. So their family members are dealing with having their family in intensive care and horan. So I feel them very much,” she said.

Dr Denese Shervington, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Tulane University School of Medicine, has studied Katrina’s psychological effects and says it is crucial to consider the mental health of people who evacuate and stay to avoid a storm.

“We have to remember, not only do we have a natural disaster, one that will potentially happen on the 16th anniversary of the last disaster, which for some people is not fully resolved, we know we are in the middle of a new disaster, which is a pandemic,” Shervington said.

She said accommodation is the number one priority and that individuals without a home, low-income colored communities, children and people without means of evacuation will feel the effects of the storm for some time.

“The most important thing is housing and stabilizing and getting people back to function, and right after that we need to start paying attention to how our people are feeling.”


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