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The large black clouds moved slowly in the sky. Residents heard the downpour of rain, and saw telephone wires and the trees dance with the wind.
Tornadoes struck New Orleans East on Tuesday, Feb. 7, and shattered the lives of many residents leaving them with no electricity, destroying businesses and homes.
It was an all too familiar scene. Many New Orleanians thought Hurricane Katrina was going to be the last time they were going to clean up broken glass, gut their homes and weap over lost memories. But the recent tornado proved otherwise.
“During the tornado, it was crazy,” said Logan Weber, a New Orleans East resident and a junior at Louisiana State University. “Only half of the street was untouched and the other half was completely destroyed or have some damage. And for my house, the roof came off.”
Weber, a Biology Chemistry/Pre-Medical student, had been living in her house for 17 years – where she and his family endured Hurricane Katrina and now an expected tornado.
Weber said their windows busted letting rain in so they had to throw away furniture to clothes. Earlier that day she thought it was another alarm notifying her.
“You get these alarms all the time and a tornado has never touched down, but I guess it’s the same like Katrina. We had so many warnings about hurricanes and we never thought it was going to be that bad,” she said. “It’s basically the same situation all over again from a hurricane to a tornado… we did it once, we’ll do it again.”
During Katrina, Weber’s house wasn’t damaged from the storm but from the levees breaking. Six feet of water entered her house.
Weber has a younger brother who is 10-years-old and now he is experiencing the trauma associated with the aftermath of a natural disaster – just like her. “I was nine when Katrina happened and my little brother is 10 so it’s kind of like the same story playing out for the both of us,” she said. “He was born the year after the Katrina so he didn’t see it and now he’s born to see the tornado.”
Weber knows that this is a stressful time for her because she wants to help her family out but goes to school an hour away.
There have been studies that if a child lives through a disaster, their emotional, mental and physical health can be interrupted.
Many families feel that the best choice for their children is to go to counseling.
“Some people decide to go to counseling when they decide it’s too much for them, when it’s an overload,” said Shirly Labbe, associate director of the counseling center at Xavier University of Louisiana.
Many people will seek guidance from their support system, but sometimes that doesn’t always work. “With their support system, they’ll say just get over it, there’s nothing wrong,” she said. “They may need someone who is unbiased, where they can listen to them as they communicate and help them develop coping mechanisms.”
Experts agree, through counseling, everyone opens up at a different pace depending on the person. When a natural disaster happens, some people live in fear and are afraid to open up. “All issues are unique to them, they talk about one thing and then [it can] lead to something else,” she said. “And we then might find that underlining issue that might of happened in second grade, that they never dealt with and sometimes it just comes out.”
“Sometimes tragedy may trigger something else that has happened in their past that they basically have masked,” Labbe said.
Going through a disaster, an individual can be in a state of shock, feel overwhelmed and/or develop post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Tiara Jones, a student at University of New Orleans, was born and raised in the city. Jones made sure she kept a positive mindset during reports of the tornado and its subsequent devastation.
Luckily Jones’s family only lost electricity from the tornado, but knew that their house could have been demolished in seconds.
“At the end of my block there was a church that got destroyed.. I was speechless when I saw it because it could have been easily have been our house,” she said.
Jones is grateful that this time it was only the electricity that went out. “From Katrina, our house got 4 feet of water and we had to redo everything and was out of our house for 9 months,” Jones said.
She knows this time around is a blessing. Jones has lived in her house for 19 years and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
Jones doesn’t ever want to go through what she experienced with Katrina because her family had to start from scratch.
“Even if a disaster happens there’s nothing you can do to stop it so why should we live in fear,” she said.
“We kind of expect the unexpected, but then again you have fear of losing everything because we once lost it before.”