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Flash flooding brings flashbacks for Katrina survivors

Hurricane season and the city's infrastructure problems bring back traumatic memories for some

NEW ORLEANS — After Hurricane Katrina, several survivors have a heightened fear as storms approach. Those same feelings come up when heavy rain floods the streets.

Juanita Joseph really didn’t like it when the streets of New Orleans flooded earlier this week.

"It reminds me so much of Katrina when we had to wade through that water. I waded through that water, and I don't know how to swim, and I'm born and raised in New Orleans," Joseph said.

And now there's Hurricane Dorian on her mind. 

"Dorian is supposed to be headed to Florida. I don't know what it's going to do. It may change its mind, just like Katrina," she said. 

RELATED: Louisiana activates Crisis Action Team to monitor Hurricane Dorian

"My sort of coping mechanism is that I am aware, but I am not following it closely. I know that it's, something's happening but I can't watch every update. That sort of makes me anxious,” Christine Manalla said.

She would get anxious on very long car trips after Katrina. It all goes back to the 16-hour-long drive, evacuating to Houston. She was pregnant at the time, not far from the due date of her first child.  

"Just really bad anxiety,and got to the point that one time I had a panic attack. And I talked to my doctor about it, so I'd say it was probably almost 10 years before I started to notice it had subsided," Manalla remembers. 

LSU Health Sciences Center Clinical Psychologist Dr. Michelle Moore says she is still counseling people who have negative emotions to bad weather dating back to Katrina.

"They remember what happened that day. They relive everything that happened that day. When you have another hurricane coming, or even these massive rain events that we've had, those cause people more trauma. They start to relive the experiences they have," Dr. Moore said. 

Fourteen years seems like a long time, but think about how the greatest generation defined their lives by traumatic experiences such as The Depression and world wars.

"We still talk, as a city, about life pre-Katrina, life post-Katrina. There are certain events in life that are defining moments, that life is different after that point," Dr. Moore explained.  

Dr. Moore says some people just have personalities that are more resilient to trauma than others. Some made need medical help, but for others they need to focus on the positive.

"Trying to be grateful for the things and the people that you have, trying to remember, possibly understanding, what you've lost but also what's the hope for the future," Dr. Moore said. 

RELATED: Flooding localized, frustrations universal in New Orleans

For Christine, it's realizing that she could have lost her parents. Their home was destroyed in Chalmette during Katrina. 

"If you have to look at the silver lining, number one, everyone evacuated because I was pregnant and maybe, I'm pretty sure, my dad probably would not have. And then so I had my mom with me for a year with my first baby," Manalla said about her parents needing to live with her for that first year after losing their home.

For Juanita, it's her faith. 

"But I'm just prayerful. That's all," Joseph said. 

Some signs you may need medical treatment: 

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • More depressed 
  • Negative outlook
  • Avoiding going places, seeing people 
  • Coping with drugs and alcohol

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