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Our Hurricane Katrina Story

This is the 7th year Anniversary of the day that Hurricane Katrina hit on August 29, 2005.

 So many families lost everything including loved ones in multiple states. We lost our entire coast line and everything was flattened. I can say this because we lived through it and saw first hand.   Every year the documentary comes back on tv and The Weather Channel plays the history of what happened (I don't see any this year).

I cry and cry every single time because of the pain I feel reliving the day that changed our lives forever.  It displaced us, took me away from my mom and the rest of my family.  It really strengthens your relationship with your significant other if you can make it through something like this together. We almost didn't make it because it was so hard for me to cope being displaced, unemployed, homeless, and being a new mom.  We were both 22 years old.  I really acted out towards my husband and he was trying the best he could for us.  I am glad he is forgiving and he loved me.

Not one day passes by that I don't think back upon this day. On this day the police officers came around warning to leave.  We were told do not call 911, no one will be available to help you.   We hadn't had a major hurricane since Camille in 1969, and I wasn't even thought of at that point.  We went through plenty of storms and nothing had ever happened, so naturally you chalk another storm up as we will be just fine.  Not this time! While still in the thoughts of everything will be fine but still being prepared, I grabbed all important documents.  We took all the heavy household furniture and put them on the floor to prevent further damage if something did happen. We piled into our car with our new baby and left. We left Long Beach and went to my moms in Bay Saint Louis....where we would be in a above sea level area and not severely below in case of a flood.

A Little History:

Bay St. Louis, a town of 8,209 built on the bluffs where French explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Bienveille hunted game in 1699, and Waveland, which had a pre-hurricane population of 6,674, were at the worst possible place at just the wrong moment when Katrina roared ashore early on Aug. 29. Her "eye" passed just to the west, putting the cities squarely in the northeast quadrant of the eye wall – the counterclockwise maelstrom where the winds are strongest and the storm surge most ferocious.

Hurricane Katrina was a very large and powerful hurricane reaching monstrous Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale while over open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It weakened before striking the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi and officially has been classified as a Category 3 hurricane at landfall. Experts estimate that it was still packing winds of 125 mph or higher when it reached the Mississippi coast. But the big killer was a storm surge of at least 30 feet, with wind-whipped waves of seven feet on top of that.

No matter the category, this hurricane produced huge waves exceeding 40 feet and a coastal water rise based on best estimates that was somewhere between 26 and 31 feet in height. That makes it the greatest water rise on record in a U.S. hurricane.

The results were catastrophic for coastal western Mississippi where homes were washed away more than a quarter of a mile inland from the coastline. What made Katrina a catastrophe in New Orleans was not the hurricane itself, but rather the failure of the levee system.

Katrina first hit Florida August 25 as a Category 1 storm, strengthened to a Category 5 from a Category 3 in just 12 hours over the Gulf of Mexico, then hit the Gulf coast August 29 as a weaker but dangerous Category 3.

These are water levels higher than the average height of a giraffe (up to 19' tall), a tractor trailer (13' 6" from ground to top) or even the shortest telephone poles (20' above the ground).

Here are some facts that indicate the ferocity of the storm:

Damage: $81 billion total; $40.6 billion in insured losses

Deaths: (direct and indirect: 1,833 total; 1,577 in Louisiana, 238 in Mississippi, 14 in Florida, two in Georgia, two in Alabama

Winds: Maximum winds extended to a 25-30 mile radius; hurricane force winds extended 75 miles east of the center (on August 29)

Storm Surge:
Western Mississippi: 24-28 feet in a 20-mile wide swath centered on St. Louis Bay Eastern Mississippi: 17-22 feet

Louisiana St. Tammany Parish from Slidell to Mandeville (northeast shore of Lake Pontchartrain: 12-16 feet East New Orleans, St. Bernard Parish, Plaquemines Parish: 15-19 feet West New Orleans: 10-14 feet Western shore of Lake Pontchartrain: 5-10 feet

Alabama Western Alabama coast (including Dauphin Island): 10-15 feet Eastern Alabama coast: up to 10 feet Mobile Bay: 8-12 feet

Tornadoes: 43 total; one in Florida, 20 in Georgia, 11 in Alabama, 11 in Mississippi

Evacuees: 1.2 million people in northern Gulf coast from Louisiana to Alabama were under evacuation order
 Katrina storm surge map along MS/AL coasts (red/pink = maximum surge heights)
Image: FEMA

Long Beach where we once lived

BSL Closer Look
Railroad Track in BSL
BSL Bridge to get to Pass Christian
Bridge crossing from Biloxi over to Ocean Springs

All photos above came from The Weather Channel.

If you are familiar with storms in the area then you know everyone usually fires up the grills and has a Hurricane party! May sound silly, but its just how it was always done.   At one point I stepped outside to see what was happening with the weather. The Pine trees swayed like they would break any minute. You could hear the crackling of some trees giving way, but it wasn't too bad. The wind swirled and whistled and the sky was a kind of greenish color, but no rain yet. We waited in the hallway and in the bathroom. We put both babies in the tub on their comfy baby blankets.  Our daughter was just born a month and 2 days prior and my youngest sister was born one month and 1 day prior to the storm. 
My brother had gotten up and looked out the window in the front and announced the water was rising higher. We grabbed the babies and went to look and the water started to creep into the yard and the levels got higher. As quickly as we got to the front and back to the bathroom water had started filling the tub. For some reason he thought it was a good idea to open the front door shortly after and waves of water came forcefully flooding through the door into the house. We tried to shut it, but it was no use.    So we then grabbed everything we could and tried to get to higher grounds.  The rain and flooding came all at the same time and the current was strong.

My husband was holding all of our stuff including our baby.  The water was right under my underarm...I am 5'3".   My husband was smart enough to not let his phone get wet.  Me, I was panicking because I was afraid that there would be moccasins(a big black snake that lives in water) and other animals that bite! {8 of my Fears} I had flip flops on and the water weighed them down so not thinking I kicked them off in the front yard. (later found inside the house in a back bedroom)
Slide Show of photo from 2005 & 2006.

It is extremely hard to live with over 100 people in a shelter and it be dark at night and everyone is going through the same grief of loss.  We slept on the floor, used some scraps of fabric that was at the Senior center for crafts as blankets. We layed there trying to block out the arguments and cries of everyone in the shelter at night.  The shelter director did very well with meals were planned and portioned at certain times.  If you weren't there you didn't eat.  Red Cross eventually got there and provided these little prepacked meals that heat up by this little bag of rock things.  There was a generator on some of the time.

Lessons we learned from surviving a Hurricane:
*You never know how long it will be until help arrives or if they will.
* Do whatever you need to in order to get to a safe place.
*Have plenty of batteries for your flash lights.
*Make sure your belongings that can be damaged by water like pictures are protected.
*Wear shoes that protect your feet.
 I had flip flops on & lost them and then I had no shoes.
Then I had big ole black rubber boots on.
Then I ended up with 3 size too big crocks on which I wore for the remainder of our time in the shelter which I appreciated greatly.
*Be extra prepared with supplies, food and water.
**Never take it for granted that your family will be there, because they can be ripped away at any moment.

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[a] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Matthew 6:19-21

There was nothing left of our home when Katrina got done. : (

Everything we saved was in our vehicle which was flooded and my photos were in zip lock baggies and water got in them and were mostly ruined.  Photos I can not get back ever again.  This was my biggest personal loss. I have no pictures of me being pregnant to show my daughter, which upsets me greatly. 

After a day or so we went to get clothes that were soaking wet to hang on tree branches to dry out so we would at least have clothes that didn't ruin. 

I had heard that if something didn't happen soon all the death in the air could create a deadly airborne disease.  This terrified me as for we had a brand new baby, so that is the reason we left when we had a chance. We thought the 2nd oldest which is my little sister had been killed in a tornado that hit the Ramada Hotel in Diamondhead where she was staying for the hurricane.  Thank goodness it ended up not being true.  If I would not have had a baby, I would have stayed in MS to help.  My mom left the next day to go to Texas and shortly after Rita got them as well.

I was able to walk around only 1 time away from the shelter to see the ruins of the town I grew up in.  We walked up to- 304 South Beach Boulevard Bay St. Louis, MS 39520.

Saint Stanislaus College and neighborhood September 11, 2005, showing hurricane damage

The smell was horrible and everything was tore up. Sides of building were tore off and all of the insides were hanging out and thrown everywhere.  Clothes, debris, family photos, and stuffed animals were in the trees that were not uprooted or broken in half or all over the place.

 In front of this school was where the only hit/miss/miss cell signal was even available.  The entire side where the beach once was in front of this area was completely gone, road and everything.  The road was no longer there, it looked like a cliff there was so much ground missing.  We found a beautiful cross that hangs in our home as well as my husband collected a little bag of coins that were damaged with deep scratches, REALLY flattened and bent.

After looking at all of the damage, I don't know how we survived.  God had angels with everyone of us. 

We ended up moving to Summerville, SC because my husbands job in MS did a transfer for him. We moved into our own place around November 2005.

Why didn't we leave?   For us we didn't think it would hit us because it had been such a long time and they never did.  I was on maternity leave and my husbands job did not let him off until after 7 pm.  We did not have enough money or time to even leave.  The gas stations were out of gas and we didnt have anywhere to go.  Just because the state is under emergency evacuation doesn't mean employers comply quicker.  Some wait until the very last minute to let employees go home.

In different times there are different songs and for our time during Hurricane Katrina this is our song.

Today my family and friends in MS & LA are going through Hurricane Isaac. Please keep them in your prayers to stay safe.   God Bless!

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