Lessons From Katrina This picture was taken in 2011 just steps away from where our house once stood.

I can’t believe it’s been 8 years since that fateful day in August of 2005.  It’s still heartbreaking to think about and August brings back a flood of memories and pain. So many lessons have been learned from that day on how our family deals with storms each season and today I am going to share some of my lessons with you.

1. Have a plan! If you live anywhere near the coast in the US you need a plan on how you are going to deal with storms. Are you going to evacuate? Are you going to shelter in place?

2. Don’t forget your mental health. While staying and sheltering in place may keep you physically safe, are you prepared to mentally handle it? Storms are stressful events and you could lose power in the middle of the summer for weeks. Our family found out last year after Isaac that our mental health means just as much as our physical health. Our new plan now calls for us to leave for anything over a Cat 1.  I had one child who had no clue what was going on and the other who knew what could happened and didn’t sleep for days and when he finally did he had nightmares.

3. Know where you important papers and pictures are… In a rush to get out of the house do you know where everything is? Can you get to it quickly? Are computers portable? If not how are you going to transport them safely? What about special books, video games and DVDs? We lost so many books and DVDs in Katrina that now all DVDs are put into a case that is easy to pick up and take with us. I put all books in plastic tubs up high and hope for the best as I can’t take them all with us.

4. Buy more food than you think you you are going to need. Stores may be closed for days after a storm due to loss of power and when they do come back, the shelves will be bare. If you are leaving, still bring food. You can save money by grilling (buy a little cheap grill) and using a crock pot at your hotel. For our family, due to us having food allergies, we bring lots of food. You never know if where you are going to end up will have the foods that you are used to or that are safe for your family. We also look for hotels that at least have a refrigerator and microwave in the rooms, a kitchenette is a bonus.

One more food tip, think of out of the box places to buy food – Whole Foods before and after Isaac was the least crowded store with the most stock outside of the warehouse stores. For some reason Target was also looked over as a place to get storm supplies. Sam’s and Costco are not only cheaper but the nature of the stores mean they keep more stock than the average grocery store.

5. Don’t wait for the last minute rush. Call and get your prescriptions refilled far in advanced of a storm. Go shopping at off hours and before the rest of the world. Leave before an official evacuation is called if you can so you aren’t sitting in hours of traffic. This is where having a plan in place helps.

6. Don’t rush back after a storm. I know everyone wants to get home and check out the damage and get back to normal life. But rushing back may mean coming back to a house  and city without power, no food at the stores, and traffic. If you can afford to wait it, out a day or two longer.

7. Remember the kids… sadly it’s easy to overlook the kids’ needs while you are stressing out about everything else. Remember that they need to be informed of what is going on and help them mentally prepare by reading books about hurricanes. Let them bring a bin of special toys, their favorite books,  their own pillows, blankets and loveys. If you’re evacuating think about going a little bit further to someplace where the kids can be entertained and not stuck in a hotel room all the time. We like Atlanta and Orlando, both are about a 7-12 hour drive and are usually far enough out of the storm area that we can explore and do family fun things to keep out minds off of the storm. Make evacuating a mini vacation.

Sheltering in place,? Then get board games that don’t need electricity and cards. Buy their favorite junk food as a treat. Break out the paints and glue and create art. Buy a few new toys and give them out throughout the storm. Try to keep them occupied as much as you can.

Don’t watch the news 24/7. Yes we all want to know what is going on, but the news 24/7 for the kids is hard and causes them to stress out.

Katy has some tips for evacuating with a special needs child and Aimee has tips on sheltering in place with toddlers.

8. It’s just stuff! I used to hate when people told me that after Katrina. I wanted to scream yes but it was my stuff. But honestly they were right, it was just stuff. The most important thing is that my family was alive and safe. The stuff we can replace, the memories will always be there. People aren’t replaceable.

So those are my lessons from Katrina… Be safe everyone and here’s to a non-exciting, non-active rest of hurricane season.


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Cara was born in Florida but raised in New Orleans. After living in New Orleans for over 30 years, the beach called her back home. She now lives in Pensacola, FL in her almost beach house. Cara is married to her high school sweetheart and they have 2 kids and 3 dogs. Cara loves all things Disney, the British Royal Family and photography. When she's not working or driving her dancer to 50000 dance classes a week she can be found at the beach!