NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Harvey may be a one-of-a-kind storm for its combination of strong initial winds and record-breaking rain, but it is bringing back a lot of memories for Arkansans who moved here after Hurricane Katrina.
Claire Haun said she has watched lots of coverage of Tropical Storm Harvey, even though she has to stop after a short period of time. “It’s almost like I’m drawn to it,” she said Monday.
Haun lived in Waveland, Mississippi until Katrina made landfall just a couple miles away on August 29, 2005. She now keeps pictures on her computer to remind herself of the storm’s power.
“That was her house,” she said, pointing to a photo of her mother’s home. Then she clicked to another photo showing a pile of rubble. “So, from that,” she stated, “to that.”
Haun has friends who evacuated from the Texas coast ahead of Harvey, which had higher wind speeds when it struck Rockport, Texas, than Katrina did 12 years ago. She said their agony and uncertainty they have described takes her right back to 2005.
“When I read the Facebook post about, ‘We’re hunkered down in Gonzales, waiting for word, hoping, praying,’—I’ve been there,” Haun said. “Those were words from my heart.”
One of her friends described having an emotional breakdown at a Walmart the other day as the weight of the disaster and managing her family’s many needs overwhelmed her.
“I remember my breakdown moment was in Hobby Lobby in North Little Rock,” Haun recalled, “when I saw them bringing out the Christmas ornaments.”
That moment also marked the beginning of a new life for her.
Haun, a nurse, had returned to Mississippi every three weeks to help in the recovery. But she realized that she needed to pick one life, rather than trying to remain in both.
“I suddenly realized that, when I was [in Arkansas], people were worried about their Christmas luncheons and their birthday parties, and the normalcies of life. When I went down there, there was much hope, but also despair.”
Haun was one of 11,000 people who relocated to Arkansas after Katrina, according to FEMA. Given the millions of people who live in Houston and along the Texas Gulf Coast, it is likely that many people will move to other cities or states.
“You just have to be willing to focus,” Haun stated, “and put your faith that you will laugh again, you will be at peace again, and there are people here who are ready to love you that don’t even know you.
“And I pray that those in Harvey’s way realize that there are thousands of people waiting to embrace them, to help them, and to help them find hope.”
Her advice for anyone currently in Houston is to make sure their family and friends have a way to reach them, and maintain contact with first responders. She also told a story about her excitement at finding a cut glass bowl that survived Katrina, and another about a friend who accidentally left a photo album while fleeing Harvey.
“When people that are unknowing say, ‘Well, it was just stuff. It was just stuff, you have your life,’ that’s true,” Haun noted. “But there is no manual for catastrophes. It’s your stuff, it meant something to you, and it’s okay to grieve over stuff. And it’s okay to take time to be kind to yourself.”
Haun said she thought the response to Harvey, from government agencies and from individuals, was better than the response to Katrina, in part because people have learned from the mistakes of the past. She added that the most important lesson she learned from Katrina was to never stay and ride out a significant storm. If at all possible, she said, she would evacuate well in advance.