As I write, Hurricane Laura is wreaking devastation across southwestern Louisiana. The category 4 storm made landfall last night with winds higher than any storm in Louisiana in 164 years. I am far removed from the storm, living in southeast Louisiana, very near the Mississippi state line. Our weather has been limited to a rain shower or two, as we have seen just the extreme outer bands of the storm come through our area.
I am familiar with storms and hurricanes, living most of my life in southeast Louisiana. In particular, my life has been forever influenced by Hurricane Katrina. I was living in New Orleans, Louisiana, during that storm 15 years ago. I will always live my life, as do countless others, as before Katrina/after Katrina. It was a seminal event.
Now, Hurricane Laura will punctuate the lives of residents of Cameron, Lake Charles, and other towns near the border of Louisiana and Texas. A storm of this size and intensity will forever change the topography and the shape of the communities. I recall a friend who had a large beachside vacation home in coastal Mississippi. The entire building disappeared after Katrina, leaving only posts standing tall and alone along the coastline.
Hurricane Laura will change and take lives. I recall after Katrina speaking to a man who was left homeless after the storm. He had stayed in the city for the storm. He had tried to leave his home to join a neighbor across the street after the storm had done its worst, or so he thought. As he tried to walk in knee-deep water, he reached the end of his driveway to discover the water had risen to waist deep and higher, so he clung to his mailbox, hoping to not be dragged away in the waters. Luckily, a neighbor saw him, and eventually, he was reached by someone in a boat who rescued him. His house was completely ruined by the high waters.
I hope that residents of western Louisiana remembered to take pictures or videos of their homes and neighborhoods before they evacuated. For many residents, their homes, place of businesses and other landmarks will be gone or radically altered by Hurricane Laura. I hope they find community and hope in the goodwill of their neighbors, family and volunteers as they return. I know I was encouraged by the outpouring of support from people in my neighborhood, my church, and from volunteers across the nation who helped us after Hurricane Katrina had decimated the city and the surrounding communities.