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As 2020 storm season reaches peak, Katrina's shadow hangs over Louisiana

We're in the midst of a pandemic with new concerns, but that life-changing storm 15 years ago, still drives our actions and emotions.

NEW ORLEANS — Hurricane Katrina changed many of us.

Of course, there was the heartache of the loss of loved ones and our homes, but it also left a lasting emotional scar. 

And now the two storms out there are causing heightened anxiety.  

A hearing-impaired son tells says momma, ‘I'm anxious,’ and uses sign language to show rising water and his fear.

“And New Orleans he says has a lot of water, bad, bad, hurricane is bad,” his mother translates his sign language.

We're in the midst of a pandemic with new concerns, but that life-changing storm 15 years ago, still drives our actions and emotions.

“Since Katrina, I've been very anxious. I live in LaPlace, Louisiana and we had some water and after (Hurricane) Isaac, it was hard on us so we have some anxiety,” she said.

“This morning, I called my daughter and I said, ‘Two storms, I think we better be prepared just in case.’ So she booked us two rooms out of town,” said another women.

“I just feel afraid that I'm going to lose my house and I don't have anywhere to go right now, especially with the virus, so I feel like I'm stuck at home not knowing what's going to happen,” said a third woman.

LSU Health psychiatrist Dr. Anthony Speier says this reaction is completely normal. He says memories can creep in 50 years later. He remembers when it happened to one woman, who after having a memory triggered, jumped up and ran out of a room.

“She just had a flashback, that you call that, to experiences as a five-year-old girl, where her house was destroyed by a hurricane. So there's no time limit on it-will-just-kind-of-go-away kind of thinking,” said Dr. Speier.

He says don't ignore these emotions. Have a solid plan of action. Stay in control by staying informed through the newscast, but not consumed by every update. He says that, and a high sugar junk food diet, are detrimental.

“Because it will make you feel very tense, and you will just have a more difficult time sleeping, and having a good disaster preparedness plan,” notes Dr. Speier.

One man we stopped, says after Katrina, storms used to make him anxious, but he says we dealt with it, rebuilt and so he's learned to live and let live.

“It is what it is. If it's going to come, it's going to come. If it comes too big, you get out the way. That's all,” he said.

And the doctor says it's best to focus on actionable things you can do.

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