Ida brings back memories of Hurricane Katrina evacuations

Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 9:29 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Hurricane Ida still brings flashbacks for people who began similar routines for evacuations 16 years ago during Hurricane Katrina. The memories still haunt many of them.

Just before Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana, Cabell County Emergency Management Director Gordon Merry was in New Orleans for a emergency management conference.

“Friday night, obviously, we were watching the weather very closely and they weren’t really sure where it was going to hit,” Merry said.

Katrina was geared to hit just days before Merry and his crew were supposed to leave.

“Woke up Saturday morning, we went down to the lobby, and the lobby was full of people,” Merry said.

He said a cruise ship had docked to get everyone out.

“When I saw the people in the lobby, my mind was made up. I know we left and we were going out I-10 over to Mississippi,” Merry said.

The West Virginia National Guard helped with evacuation efforts, housing about 300 refugees at Camp Dawson -- a military base in northern West Virginia.

Something that still haunts Merry is the atmosphere days before the storm.

“We went out to dinner, had to go to the French Quarter, and everything was normal,” Merry said. “It was very low-key. Even people at the event were not saying much about it.”

As Hurricane Ida made landfall, Merry worried about flooding the days to come.

“Is that 3-5 inches from Tuesday to Friday or a short period if it’s over a long period, that is much better,” Merry said.

The West Virginia National Guard was not the only way refugees came to the state. Church groups and civic groups bused in people all over the region, including Charleston, Huntington and Ironton, and some ended up staying.

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