16 years after Katrina, Gulf Coast residents face the trauma of Hurricane Ida: NPR

New Orleans residents Jordan Bridges and David Jones pack sandbags as they prepare to weather the storm. Bridges described Katrina as a “stain” in the soul of the city. Aubri Juhasz / WWNO hide caption

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Aubri Juhasz / WWNO

New Orleans residents Jordan Bridges and David Jones pack sandbags as they prepare to weather the storm. Bridges described Katrina as a “stain” in the soul of the city.

Aubri Juhasz / WWNO

At the western end of New Orleans, residents hurried down a narrow residential street along the causeway on Saturday afternoon. They came here to bring sandbags to flood barricades in front of Ida, which hit land on Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane, to erect their homes. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards called it “one of the strongest storms to hit Louisiana since at least the 1850s”.

For many residents, “sandbagging” is a normal ritual when preparing for a storm. But the intensity of the storm and the evacuation of neighbors and friends are triggering trauma from Hurricane Katrina. The Category 3 storm struck the Gulf Coast 16 years ago that same weekend, killing over 1,800 people and causing massive damage along the coast.

Algiers Point resident Dionne Allen was evacuated during Katrina. But she decided to stay during Ida.

Dionne Allen, 36, says she called hotels to try to evacuate but everything was booked. Aubri Juhasz / WWNO hide caption

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Aubri Juhasz / WWNO

Dionne Allen, 36, says she called hotels to try to evacuate but everything was booked.

Aubri Juhasz / WWNO

“I’m just here to get some sandbags for this storm that came out of nowhere,” Allen said. “And during the Katrina anniversary, not to mention, it’s all pretty surreal.”

Allen said she just hope it doesn’t get as bad as it did with Katrina.

“After calling hotels for two days, I found that they were all basically booked out. For some people it is not that easy financially to go … if not mentally or physically,” she said.

Officials in the Gulf States were preparing for the worst before the storm.

Governor Edwards activated the entire Louisiana National Guard with 5,000 available guardsmen and requested resources from FEMA. In neighboring Mississippi, Governor Tate Reeves took similar steps.

Governor Kay Ivey also declared a state of emergency in Alabama.

Photos: Scenes from Hurricane Ida As It Pummels Gulf Coast

Some chose to heed the voluntary and mandatory evacuation notices in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi. And some couldn’t leave for financial or other reasons.

The decision-making process creates a sense of déjà vu in many, such as Chris Dier, a teacher in New Orleans who went away as a child during Katrina. His school was destroyed.

“I teach juniors and seniors. I definitely have these flashbacks when they went on the intercom and said the school will be closed on Monday and Tuesday for a long time, ”he said.

For some, those feelings are made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as nurse Rachel Adcock, who is located in Ocean Springs, Miss., Just off the Gulf Coast.

Adcock stayed through Katrina and remembers seeing graves torn from the ground. The high death toll from the pandemic, especially in the south, heightened fears of the storm’s potential impact.

“COVID-19 has hit Ocean Springs very hard. We even have friends who are in intensive care right now. So your family members have been dealing with your family in intensive care and the hurricane.

Dr. Denese Shervington, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Tulane University School of Medicine, has studied the psychological effects of Katrina and says it’s important to consider the mental health of people who are evacuating and staying to weather the storm.

“We need to remember that we are not just having a natural disaster that may be on the 16th, which is a pandemic,” Shervington said.

She said housing is a top priority and that those who are not housed, low-income communities, children and people with no resources to evacuate will feel the aftermath of the storm for a while.

“The most important thing is to house and stabilize and restore people to function, and immediately after that we need to pay attention to how our people are feeling.”

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