Aubrey Gohass / WWNO
In the western end of New Orleans, residents rushed to drive down a skinny residential road beside the dam on Saturday afternoon. They came here to pick up bags of sand to build flood barriers around their homes before Ida, which made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on Sunday. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards earlier named It is “one of the most powerful storms to hit Louisiana since at least the 1850s.”
For many residents, “putting on sandbags” is a normal ritual for any storm preparation. But the intensity of the storm and seeing neighbors and friends leave caused the shock of Hurricane Katrina. Category 3 storm hit this Gulf Coast Same weekend 16 years ago, killing more than 1,800 people and causing extensive damage along the coast.
Dion Allen evacuated from Algiers during Hurricane Katrina. But she decided to stay during Ida’s period.
Aubrey Gohass / WWNO
“I’m just here to get some sandbags for this storm that came out of nowhere,” Allen said. “Not to mention Katrina’s memory, it’s all very surreal.”
Allen said she just hoped she wasn’t as bad as Katrina.
“After contacting the hotels for two days, I found they were basically all booked up. It’s not easy for some people to go financially…if not mentally and physically as well,” she said.
Officials in the Gulf states were already preparing for the worst before the storm hit.
Governor Edwards fully activated the Louisiana National Guard with 5,000 guards available, and requested resources from FEMA. In neighboring Mississippi, Governor Tate Reeves has taken similar steps.
In Alabama, too, Governor Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency.
Some decided to take care of voluntary and mandatory eviction notices in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi. Some were unable to leave for financial or other reasons.
The decision-making process excites deja vu for many, such as Chris Dyer, a teacher in New Orleans, who left during Hurricane Katrina as a child. His school was destroyed.
“I teach young and old. I definitely have those flashbacks of when they went to the intercom and said school would be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. So I guess it’s just going to stay with you. I think it’s always going to be for the long haul.”
For some, those feelings have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, like nurse Rachel Adcock who resides in Ocean Springs, Miss., right on the Gulf Coast.
Adcock stayed through Katrina and remembers seeing the graves that were pushed out of the ground. The rising death toll from the pandemic, especially in the south, is exacerbating concern about the potential effects of the storm.
“COVID-19 has hit Ocean Springs really hard. We have friends who are in the ICU at the moment. So their family members are dealing with having their family in the ICU and the hurricane. So I feel deeply for them now,” she said.
Dr. Dennis Shervington, MD, professor of psychiatry at Tulane University School of Medicine has been studying the psychological effects of Hurricane Katrina and says it is critical to consider the mental health of evacuees and remain to ride out the storm.
“We have to remember that, not only are we facing a natural disaster, but a catastrophe that is likely to occur on the 16th anniversary of an earlier disaster, which for some people has not been fully resolved, we know we are in the midst of another catastrophe,” Shervington said.
She said housing is the number one priority and that non-housing individuals, low-income communities of color, children and people without the resources to evacuate will be feeling the effects of the post-storm for a while.
“The most important thing is housing, stability and getting people back so they can work, and right after that, we need to start caring about how our people are feeling.”