No, I was not living in the New Orleans area when Hurricane Katrina hit on August 29, 2005. I had not moved back to Louisiana yet. But its effect on me will always be strong because South Louisiana is my birth and my berth. This weekend marks the 10th Anniversary of “the storm”. That’s what we locals (that’s me again now) refer to it as. There are a myriad of commemorative and reflection events and ceremonies taking place in New Orleans and in the affected surrounding areas, including my town of Slidell, this weekend. President Obama visited N.O. on Thursday, former President George W. Bush was there today, and former President Bill Clinton will be in N.O. on Saturday.
1. My parents’ planned visit from Baton Rouge to Detroit to visit me and Hubby was thwarted by the impending storm that weekend.
Momma and Daddy were due to fly to Detroit for a visit then but the flights had been cancelled. I was disappointed to say the least, but I understood why. However, as a native of Louisiana, I rolled my eyes at the mention of a tornado/tropical storm/hurricane. Every kid raised in Louisiana has gone through the disaster drills at school. It was our norm.
2. I and the rest of the world outside of New Orleans had no idea how bad it was there for several days.
My family and Marlon’s family that lived in Baton Rouge experienced heavy rain, roof/shingles damage, and power outages during the first days of Katrina. We learned this through talking to them on the phone. I remember telling people at work that my family in BR had to cancel their visit to see me, but they were safe with minor home damage. Katrina was a national news story at the time, but the real chaos and destruction was not being televised. Our families in Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s capital city, were not even fully aware because of widespread power outages. Until…
3. The crowds of people misplaced by the storm that were televised standing outside the Superdome.
They were at the iconic Superdome by the thousands. Barely clothed, visibly sick, dehydrated, hungry. Babies, elderly, and even deceased residents of New Orleans. My mouth hung open for the longest time watching them on-screen walk around in a daze. The facility was one of the largest places in New Orleans for all of them to congregate in. Seeing those images spoke volumes about what had really happened after the levees broke. Because that is what truly harmed the city, the breached levees not the storm itself.
4. Returning to New Orleans for the first time after Katrina and seeing the marked houses of the dead.
Many of those houses still bear the markings today 10 years later. The numbers vary in what they represent: no deceased people in the house, how many are deceased, and/or pets found alive or dead. What is most striking to me are the existence of refurbished houses in excellent shape located directly next to the destroyed ones. I can only shake my head at why nothing has been done about it.
5. I learned the quietest kept secret about the storm when I moved back to South Louisiana.
Hubby and I wanted to raise The Deuce near our families, so we headed back to The Boot in 2007. I never thought God would lead us to Slidell (a hop, skip, and a jump from New Orleans) particularly after Katrina. But that was the ideal area for us to live when Hubby landed a new job. Shortly after, we realized how affected Slidell was by the storm.
The new friends that I made in Slidell had all kinds of stories about what they went through when Katrina hit. Most Slidellians are natives of New Orleans and/or have family there. Slidell is separated from New Orleans by the Twin Span Bridges of I-10. In fact, the St. Tammany Parish line originates in the middle of Lake Pontchartrain. That’s how close we are. Portions of the 260-ton slabs of the Twin Span broke into pieces due to the surge of Katrina.
I was in total panic mode the first time I rode in a car across the temporary version of it. The pic above shows the exit that we lived near when we first moved to Slidell. Needless to say, when Hurricane Gustav hit in 2008, we couldn’t evacuate fast enough.
Slidell and the nearby towns of Lacombe, Abita Springs, Mandeville, Covington, and Madisonville are all surrounded by water. We are collectively called the Northshore because of where we are located in reference to Lake Pontchartrain. Where I live currently in Slidell is right near the Louisiana/Mississippi border. That is where the eye of the storm passed. I have seen the remnants of homes wiped out along the Gulf of Mexico in Mississippi. Just foundations and sometimes a mailbox but nothing else.
I am now way more comfortable crossing the Twin Span bridges. It has been newly constructed to be higher, wider, and more durable against wind and water surges.
The Superdome has since been renamed the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It has been renovated inside and out and I enjoy going to various functions there. At night, there are muli-colored lights that illuminate the outer radius. It’s quite beautiful.
Hotels near the Superdome have been restored. A new outside area arose there called Champions Square where concerts and other events are held. But best of all, non-football ticket holders can tailgate and watch the Saints game on big screen TVs. Who Dat!
New Orleans and all of the affected surrounding areas have made significant progress. But there is still a lot to be done. There are still lingering effects from Katrina on water systems, land development, population, and more. But this weekend, we are rejoicing about the strength and the enduring love of the cities and areas that battled the storm.
Do you remember where you were when you heard the news about Hurricane Katrina?
Have you ever visited New Orleans or the Northshore area? If so, pre-Katrina or post-Katrina?
See ya later,