Norfolk resident talks surviving Hurricane Katrina, Laura heading towards family in Louisiana

Posted at 11:42 PM, Aug 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-26 23:57:53-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Fifteen years ago, Hurricane Katrina left the city of New Orleans underwater.

"I had over six feet of water in my house,” said Denise Charbonnet.

She was stuck in her home for six nights.

"I didn't know when I would be rescued, so I had to think about how I was going to eat,” adds Charbonnet.

Every August, Charbonnet is reminded of the destruction caused by heavy winds and floodwaters.

She thinks about it even more with Hurricane Laura heading towards the Gulf Coast.

"Everything comes up with the thoughts of Katrina and yesterday being the anniversary,” Charbonnet adds.

Charbonnet now lives in Norfolk, but her family still lives in New Orleans.

“I have a son and my grandson,” she adds.

And her father, a World War II veteran, is 95.

“I think about my family surviving this and whether they are going to evacuate or not,” she adds.

Hurricane Laura is expected to make landfall west of New Orleans, towards the Texas border, but Charbonnet says New Orleans will get heavy rain that will cause flooding.

"I think they will dodge the brunt of it, but the storm is a monster. It's a bowl; New Orleans is a bowl. Anytime it rains, the pumps really have to work hard to get the water out of the streets,” she adds.

From her experience, she says people will go days without power. People will even probably need a new place to call home - just like she did.

"Eighty percent of New Orleans was underwater, and no one could live there for months,” Charbonnet said.

She says hurricane victims appreciate food and donations from afar, but what they will need the most is a helping hand and a warm welcome if they have to start all over.

“We had to come to the rest of the country and hope and pray that they had open arms for us. It was refreshing to find communities that accepted us and took us in,” Charbonnet adds.

Click here for more local hurricane resources and information.