Hurricane Katrina And How One Family Survived

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Today I’m talking about Hurricane Katrina and how one family that I know personally survived. I wrote this post a few years ago. How quickly we seem to forget what people have survived in the last several years. Some of my newer readers may want to learn what one family did to survive this hurricane.

I actually did a short interview with him about his experience. I watched this young man grow up, waterski barefoot, and our families shared a few road and boat trips together. I can still remember the day he got married and his beautiful wife with family surrounded enjoying this special day.

He was going to be a doctor so off he went with his new wife to do his residency at Tulane University in New Orleans. Now fast forward to August 29th, 2005. I love to watch CNN on the television when I write, and as I did so all of sudden I heard that Hurricane Katrina had hit Tulane.

I can still remember asking my husband to call our friends to make sure his son, wife, and their children were okay. My heart is beating faster as I write this. I can remember calling our close friends several times a day to see what was going on and if they had heard anything.

They were letting us know each time they heard something. Here’s the deal, with all that was going on at the time I felt I needed to contact this young family to hear their story first hand and try to understand what they did before and after Hurricane Katrina hit.

So let’s get started with some questions I really wanted to know about their experience regarding Hurricane Katrina.

1.  What was the approximate date Katrina hit the area where you lived and went to school?

August 29, 2005.

2.  What year of school or residency were you in at the time?  

I was in my 3rd year of residency.

3.  Did the people in the area have much pre-warning of the pending events, and if so, how much time?

About a week.

4.  Did the engineers really expect the levees to give way, and could they have done anything to prevent it?  

No. Probably, but there is a lot of argument about that.

5.  How old were you and wife and each of your children at the time?  

I was 31, my wife was 31, and kids 6, 4 and 2.

6.  Do you remember where each family member was when you were told you had to evacuate?  

We were all at home on Saturday morning. Katrina was predicted to make landfall in New Orleans on Monday morning.

7.  I never let my car’s gas tank get below half full. How were you fixed for fuel, and did you have access to gas from any of the local gas stations? 

I mentioned to my wife to make sure her tank was full as Katrina got closer and kept mine the same. Gas stations were very busy with long lines the closer it came and on Saturday/Sunday lines were terrible and stations ran out of gas to sell.

8.  Were the stations lined up with those waiting, and were the lines pretty long? How about the semi-trucks and other delivery vehicles, did they have access to stores and neighborhoods?  

As above.

9.  As I remember, you flew home to Utah for a while until things settled down. With the evacuation so quick in coming did you have to leave a lot of things you wish you could have taken? How about important documents, pictures, and other valuable items?

We know you had to throw away your refrigerator, what other assets did you lose, like TV’s washer/dryer sets, furniture, etc.? How about the home itself, did it sustain a lot of damage, and how did you recover from that loss? How much notice did you get before the true evacuation took place?  

We left everything that we didn’t feel was essential. We had evacuated a few other times, but always came back a day or two later. We had all important documents/pictures/valuables/computer ready to go. 

We took a video of everything in each of the rooms of the house just in case it was needed for insurance. We did toss the fridge. I would recommend emptying it prior to evacuating. No significant damage to our home, and no significant losses.

10. Did they close down the whole Tulane University campus area, just the med school, or what?

The campus was shut down. The hospital ran as best it could until patients could be evacuated, then it was basically shut down for a while- I don’t know exactly how long.

11. Were any of the people in your neighborhood and your community able to stay put, and if so, how did they make it work?  Did they have stored food, water, and other necessities?  

Some people did stay. One guy worked for the electrical company and had to stay to work, so he had support from them. His family left. Most everyone I know evacuated.

12. What might you suggest families have available to help them sustain life when an unexpected emergency or disaster arises? What might you have done differently to prepare, given budget and storage space limitations that families may face?  

I would recommend having a few hundred to $500 in 1’s, 5’s, 10’s, 20’s because your cards don’t work because there are no electricity or phone lines. You can only take so much in your car. Things that we felt were most important to us that we didn’t want to lose we took with us. 

We left a lot of stuff behind that we didn’t want to, but it could be replaced with money. I don’t feel that we would have done anything differently, except emptying the refrigerator.

13. Any other observations you feel are appropriate? From an outsider’s perspective, it seemed like so many families just expected the government to step in and take care of them. With the government’s limited resources don’t you think the average family is going to be disappointed in most emergency situations?

Many people did, but the Mayor and Governor had warned people for at least a week prior that there would be places of “last resort” if needed, but it wasn’t going to be comfortable. 

The officials constantly encouraged people to leave the city. I wouldn’t count on the government. The local church was much better prepared and set up to help people out.

14.  As a student did you have any emergency supplies like food or water stored? If so, for how many days or weeks could you have survived on it if you were not evacuated? 

I want people to help those going to college to make sure they give food storage and stored water containers because most students can’t afford to purchase these items.  

We had a 72-hour kit. We did not have a whole lot of extra because we couldn’t afford it and we also didn’t have a lot of room to be able to store extra food/water. We figured we could drive to a safe place and then use cash to get what we needed. 

15. How long did it take for your insurance company or FEMA to settle the expenses on the damage done to your home? Was your insurance company willing to pay for housing expenses, or did they say something like “this is an act of God therefore, you are not covered.”  

I think we had insurance pay for the small area of siding that blew off the house.  We didn’t have a big issue.

16. What are five things you would recommend to families if this situation were to happen to them to be ready for this type of situation or another disaster?

Food storage (if possible), cash as noted above, keep your gas tank full, 72-hour kits, personal documents, and valuables.

17.  Did any government agency or church offer to supply you with water or food? If so, who and how quickly did they respond, if at all?

They had evacuation plans if you wanted to head to other areas. One of the local churches also had semis outside the danger areas ready to come in as soon as it was safe to do so.

18.  Did any of your friends or neighbors prepare for this disaster? Did any have emergency car kits or 72-hour kits just to get them out of town?

Most everyone we knew was in the same situation as us.  

19. Tell me the worst and the best that you learned from this situation. 

The worst-not cleaning out fridge. The best-having cash on hand and that we took what was really important to us and what we felt wasn’t replaceable.  Everything else really didn’t matter.

This family was blessed that they lived in a neighborhood that experienced more wind damage rather than others who had terrible floods from broken levees and lakes that overflowed. I still remember seeing people on TV of all ages sitting on top of their homes waiting for someone to come with small boats to rescue them.

Many had pets with them too. The New Orleans Super Dome became an evacuation center with hundreds of people sleeping, eating and doing all the other “daily” stuff in such close quarters.

Right now we are seeing much of the same thing in lower Mississippi and Louisiana from all the heavy rains. Most of these folks are having to be evacuated from their homes with no idea when they may be able to return.

Then they’ll have all the clean up to do. Many of these people don’t have flood insurance, so they could be dealing with the financial consequences of these events for years to come.

This family is back on their feet. He completed his medical schooling and now lives in Utah as a successful doctor. He is grateful for the lessons learned and feels they are better prepared for the future.

Final Word

Let’s all learn from what others have had to deal with and start preparing TODAY for what could come our way. You know best what the challenges may be in your particular location, and thus how best to prepare.

One thing to keep in mind is that water and food are necessary, no matter what. Not every situation requires an evacuation plan, but put one together, just in case.

I hope this post helps as you prepare your family for the unexpected. God bless you in your efforts.

I quote Wikipedia: Hurricane Katrina was the eleventh named storm and fifth hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. It was the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. Wikipedia

Date: August 23, 2005 – August 31, 2005
Category: Category 5 Hurricane (SSHS)

End of quote.  by Wikipedia

Please read and study my book as a family so you will be prepared for any disaster: Prepare Your Family for Survival: How to Be Ready for Any Emergency or Disaster Situation

I also read the book about Hurricane Katrina called Five Days at Memorial

Light sources by Linda

Copyright Images: Depositphotos_6051148_m-2015Hurricane Katrina

14 thoughts on “Hurricane Katrina And How One Family Survived

  • March 15, 2016 at 8:04 am

    Great article – hearing from someone who experienced such a huge disaster is enlightening. Cleaning out the refrigerator is not something I would have thought to do. If leaving my home in an evacuation situation, how does one dispose of the food in the refrigerator/freezer in a responsible manner? Leaving it in outside trash containers, even bagged, the contents is likely to attract scavengers. Trash service would undoubtedly be interrupted for some time after a disaster.

    • March 15, 2016 at 11:04 am

      Hi Ellen, that’s a very good question about the trash disposal. I doubt they had trash pickup!! Good question there was so much chaos after that hurricane. I know they had to get rid of the refrigerator a few months later when they were able to return home. I remember them saying there was so much mold and bacteria growing in it. I wrote this post to help us all think about what will happen if we are gone for months possibly from our homes. They did have a home to come back to and repair but so many others had it so much worse. Linda

  • March 21, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    I have commented on Linda’s site before. she has excellent information on emergency preparedness. I also store food and water and emergency medical supplies. If you feel that the government will come rushing in to protect you in an emergency think again. They have their hands full and aren’t always prepared themselves. I just finished reading “Five Day At Memorial”by Sherri Fink, a good read but hard because the doctors and nurses who were waiting valiently for help to evacuate patients were sorely disappointed and live in horrid conditions for 5 days after hurricane Katrina and ultimately had to decide who to save and who to “let go” because government help did NOT arrive.

    • March 21, 2016 at 6:24 pm

      Hi Melissa, oh my gosh, I’m getting that book right now! You know by now I love this stuff! The government cannot help all the people! We need to take care of ourselves! I am adding this my post! Thank you, Melissa! Linda

  • December 19, 2018 at 8:36 am

    Ok. You have, say for example, a 4 to 6 months supply of emergency supplies; dehydrated foods, water, other stockpiled foods, cooking items, etc. There is an emergency situation, like a fire in California or the above mentioned hurricane, where you can’t take any of your supplies. When you get back home again you find everything destroyed or unusable. What then? Are there ways to protect your things? You could need those things after returning home (if you have even a partial home to live in) while you get back on your feet again. I’m thinking along the lines of burying in the ground in waterproof containers or storing in a concrete area of a basement. My family feels it’s not worth the time or money to prepare or stockpile if everything can be lost by fire or water.

    • December 19, 2018 at 9:27 am

      Hi Linda, this is a very good question. Here’s how I see it, Texas had some floods and my friend told me she lost all her 5-gallon containers of food. There are so many variables like if you lived along the eastern seaboard, where you are subject to hurricane season each year, you would prepare differently than I would here in Southern Utah. Our biggest fear is an earthquake. I think it would depend on where you live. If flooding will be an issue, you would not want to bury anything in the ground. When you come back you may not be able to identify the spot you buried your stuff. The California fires opened a lot of our eyes this year. We could never imagine an entire town being wiped out so quickly. I have my food storage off the ground as well as my preps. But fire could wipe it all out. I’m not going to worry before I have a disaster. I have done what I know works for my area. We are preppers and if things get wiped out, so be it. We will put our boots back on and start over. This may not be the answer you were looking for. Everyone has different issues. My house may split in half from an earthquake. I will start over if I make it through the disaster. I hope this helps. God bless you and your family. Linda

  • December 19, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    Linda ~
    As with all insurance – food/water storage, as well as auto/home – we all “bank” on it paying off in a disaster situation. Many find that their insurance – in the case of home insurance – doesn’t pay off as well as they thought it would. Food/water storage is sort of the same. We store so that in the event of a disaster, we will have something to fall back on. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I would much rather store and pray it is there when/if something happens rather than not prepare and be guaranteed that I have nothing (government) to fall back on!

    I have studied the reports from FEMA, Red Cross, and my state and local governments that advise that we have 7 – 14 days of preps in place as it is going to likely be that long before any help comes. That is frightening for me as I know that none of my neighbors has more than a few days food in the cupboard and no water to speak of – might have a case of bottled water but no back up plan.

    I agree that we can (and I will) start over if the preps we have are destroyed. In my area, we could have an earthquake or volcanic eruption. We periodically have winter wind/rain storms that can knock out the electricity for days if not a week or more. Those periodic storms and lack of electricity are very short term events but people don’t think about that much less more destructive long term events.

    If we all worried about the “what ifs” we would all be basket cases!! I cannot worry about that. I have insurance so that if something happens and I am able to stay in place, I am covered. If I have to leave, well, I will take all that I can and not worry about what happens afterwards.

    • December 19, 2018 at 6:31 pm

      Hi Leanne, this is such a great comment, but it makes sense. We cannot worry or dwell on extreme things that may happen. We have been blessed to know we must be prepared for the unexpected. We will make it through any disaster be it good or bad. We will survive and start over if need be. We are strong men and women, we will survive! Hugs! Linda

  • December 19, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    Dear Linda, people need to understand that there are all kinds of “emergencies”. My little grandson has been sick with the flu the past two days, and thanks to you I was prepared. The sick bucket (large sour cream container lined with gallon ziploc bag) is genius! Not only does it make disposal sanitary & easy, but it allows me to keep track of how much fluid is lost in the event we wind up at the doctor–she will want to know. I also feared we were out of hand sanitizer, but voila, more was stored in the kit! Just call me Grateful Granny.

    • December 19, 2018 at 6:34 pm

      Hi Roxanne, or Grateful Granny! I love that! This is such a great comment showing others why we prep, we are prepared for what comes our way. I will pray for your sweet grandson that he gets well super fast. Thank goodness for sanitizer! I love it! Linda

  • December 19, 2018 at 10:28 pm

    A natural disaster is not the only reason to prep. My hubby and I were both out of work in 2009. The extra food we had helped a great deal, but we still struggled a lot because of house payments and a car payment. Now we have a “smaller” home that is paid for and we don’t have a car payment either. We planted fruit trees and bushes, we have a large garden and we raise chickens, rabbits and goats. We still have a ways to go but we are working to grow/raise most of our food. We have learned to preserve our produce. We also have rain barrels to water the garden and animals. And guess what we only have one acre of land! I would advise anyone to just take baby steps.

    • December 20, 2018 at 7:04 am

      Hi Brenda, oh my gosh I LOVE LOVE LOVE your comment! You are truly the example I would like the world to see how you survived a job loss and put your boots back on and made changes so it would NEVER happen again! I applaud you big time! Thank you for sharing your experience. It truly does not have to be a natural disaster to prep. Good job! Linda

  • December 20, 2018 at 10:07 am

    We left Morgan City, La. on August 20, 2005 nine days before Katrina. This area is West of New Orleans by about 70 miles, but the rest of the construction crew that remained through the storm still had major issues to contend with. No fuel or groceries, high water and no way to leave or work. We returned to Venice, La. 90 miles South of New Orleans to work at a gas processing facility in 2007 . The devastation even two years after the fact was horrific. Just the slab of homes were remaining, vehicles still submerged in the swamp. Natural Gas service to the rebuilt homes had never been restored, due to so many remaining lines being open and unable to be located. The closest banking service was 85 miles one way and we had one service station for fuel. The US Coast Guard Station was just beginning to be rebuilt. A man Camp was set up with travel trailers for the facility workers with a camp kitchen to feed them and the local emergency personnel. TWO YEARS!! These people South of Port Sulphur, La. may never recover fully. Prep for you family as much as possible today.

    • December 20, 2018 at 4:06 pm

      Hi Beth, thank you SO MUCH for your comment! Those of us who live many many miles away from each disaster never really hear everything. We need to know the facts like you are sharing today. We are so spoiled with grocery stores, gas stations, heat, running water, and electricity at our fingertips we soon forget those who have gone through total devastation. I’m picturing the slab of homes in my mind, I can’t even imagine going back to see your old neighborhood like this. We have kitchens we can easily cook in and there were families in lines trying to get meals. Thank you so much for making us aware of this. We NEED to know the facts. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Linda


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