Hurricane Katrina, the fifth named hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic season, made history as the costliest and deadliest hurricane in American history. A Category 5 storm, Katrina steamrolled into the Gulf of Mexico and slammed into land on Monday, August 29, 2015. It’s been ten years ago today since Hurricane Katrina devastated areas ranging from Louisiana to Florida.
Mississippi & Hurricanes
If you live in any of the states along the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Coast, the potential for hurricanes is not a question of “IF” but “WHEN.” Childhood stories recounted the events of Hurricane Camille, a 1969 Category 5 storm. I knew these storms were dangerous and I knew their fury came without mercy. Unfortunately, those stories did not prepare me for the chaos and despair following August 29th.
Hurricane Katrina on August 29th, 2005
I recall watching the news in the days prior to the 29th. I knew that the storm’s strength grew but, living almost 100 miles north of the Gulf Coast, I didn’t expect there to be anything more than a power outage – if that. IF ONLY THAT WAS THE REALITY!
I stood on my balcony watching the rain fall and the winds blow the tops of trees around 7am-8am on that Monday morning. Work had been cancelled for the day to ensure that everyone stayed home. The TV was tuned to WDAM, the local NBC affiliate. The power went out around 10:00/10:30am. (This was 2005 and before the age of social media and easily accessible Internet access by smartphones. In fact, the term smartphone had yet to be adopted.)
At one point I recall being in a closet – just to be safe as the walls creaked against the wind’s strength.
The Day After Katrina
I awoke the next morning and was still without power. I dressed and started on the 2-mile drive to work. (Remember, this is Hattiesburg, MS…almost 100 miles NORTH of the Gulf Coast.) I drove maybe 10-20-25 miles per hour down US Highway 49 because the normal route was blocked by down trees and power lines. I drove carefully through intersection-after-intersection where there were either parts of red lights or none remaining. I passed the University of Southern Mississippi on Hardy Street – a witness to the devastation on campus.
A trip that normally took 10-15 minutes probably took 30-45. It ended as I arrived at 6184 US HWY 98 West, the location of (then) MegaGate Broadband. I couldn’t park in my normal spot in the parking lot because the remnants of the CFO’s desk was there. I looked upstairs and fully saw what I couldn’t believe as I drove closer to the building. The only way I could describe it – it looked as if a bomb had exploded the back and side of the building.
I unlocked the side door and, not using good judgment in hindsight, entered and went upstairs. No power…no lights…no air. It was damp..wet…and not in need of lights due to damage. I remember standing upstairs inside an office as I talked to someone who had arrived and was standing on the ground below.
I remember going with a group who had gathered at the office out to our Ivy Lane location and having “the best worst cup of coffee I’ve ever had.” I remember that our service was still working and offering to take switchboard calls – just to help out. I remember hearing others talk of (potential) damage to the Coast and New Orleans. (Remember, this was 2005.) The Internet connection dropped around 11am.
Restoration of Power
It was Thursday evening around 6:45pm before my power was restored. It was weeks before my parents’ power was restored in Covington County. It was weeks before my television and Internet service was restored.
Who to Remember?
Katrina was something that happened. It’s one of those things that makes me wish Doctor Who existed. But, even then, it would be something that happened that cannot be changed.
My situation was simple. Looking back, I suffered inconvenience. I was one of the lucky. No, I was one of the blessed.
Those who should be remembered are those who did not survive. It is those who died for no other reason that they could not leave New Orleans that we must remember. It is those who died in the chaos and despair that occurred in the weeks that followed. They should be remembered.
It is also a reminder – a reminder to all of us that we cannot control the weather; however, we can control how we respond to a disaster.
To all of those who lost, you are remembered today.