Mother Nature spawned two daughters in the late summer of 2005, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. The devastation to the coastal communities off of the Gulf of Mexico was substantial thanks to storm surge and high winds. In the City of New Orleans, which was buffeted by Category-3 hurricane force winds (125 mph) and rain; aging levees designed to protect from rising storm waters broke and an estimated 80% of the city was flooded. Homes and lives washed away.
All in all more than 1500 people died in Louisiana (more than 120 people are still listed as missing) and a total death count from the storm amounted to over 1800 (including Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi). The loss of beloved family pets, some dead and others forever lost in the chaos, weren’t even counted and families still mourn. The death toll rose with “indirect” fatalities which included a heartbreaking high percentage of stillbirths from the flooded parishes of Louisiana. Katrina made landfall in Florida on August 25, traversed the warm Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in Louisiana on August 29.
“Hurricane Katrina (2005). A Day That Shook The World . With the power of a nuclear explosion, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana on the 29th August 2005. 125mph winds caused widespread devastation.” (uploaded by British Pathé Aug. 1, 2011)
The massive loss of life, immense property damage, the failure of the levee infrastructure, and the lack of adequate evacuations pointed to dismal shortcomings in disaster planning. The dedication of public servants was questioned, communication between agencies responding to the emergency was confused, people who needed food and basic supplies were mixed with looters, charitable donations and rescuers were originally denied access to the areas of need by the National Guard for safety concerns, and heads of state were accused of delayed response.
Assistance and donations came from around the world to a country known so often for aid to others. Hurricane Katrina (followed quickly by Hurricane Rita) monopolized headlines and forced major overhauls in disaster planning and response. But even now, ten years later, destroyed homes still sit abandoned and thousands of people displaced during the storms never returned. There has been some re-building and the spirit of those remaining still shines strong, even so the scars will always be there.
People came from all over the country as part of organized Federal teams to render aid – rescue, medical, mortuary… My husband spent about six weeks in New Orleans helping to administer health services in tents set up in hospital parking lots; most hospitals were totally destroyed, others had minimal facilities available, and the patients overwhelmed those limits. During his tenure there he slept in tents, in a mobile van converted for administrative work, and in a firehouse on a barrier island (the firehouse had flooded and equipment destroyed); the teams he worked with shared supplies and sent messages home via satellite phones.
Spouses of the team members sat at home listening to every news report and waiting for those short 45-second calls from our loved ones. When he returned home he was filled with remarkable stories of strength and determination. People who had been through hell were inspirations in survival and compassion. The people of New Orleans were grateful for the help and eager to assist. When he came home he was a changed man for the better after spending that time with such amazing people.
Life was hard after the hurricanes swept through, destroying her parents’ home and livelihood…
An errand for her boss – a chance encounter with a crew of bank robbers – a kind man who tried to help her … a man who isn’t all he seems… no, he is so much more
(From the acknowledgments for my novel Hostage Heart)
To my husband
For inspiring me with the stories he brought home from Louisiana after the storms…
And to DMAT teams around the country who rendered aid after hurricanes devastated parts of the Gulf Coast. And to the resiliency of the folks who met these hurricanes firsthand.