Louisville continues to feel Katrina impact

Mary Ann Naser-Hall
Mary Ann Naser-Hall
Emily Naser-Hall (left) and her roommate
Emily Naser-Hall (left) and her roommate
Chef Richard Lowe
Chef Richard Lowe

By Jean West - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Sunday marked the 5-year anniversary since hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf coast, causing massive flooding that devastated the city of New Orleans and killed 1,800 people. Although the storm was hundreds of miles from Louisville, it has had an effect on those who live here.

Five years ago Mary Ann Naser-Hall and her husband took their daughter, Emily, to New Orleans to begin her freshman year at Tulane University. Little did they know how their lives and the city would soon change.

"While we were there, the weather was beautiful - gorgeous sunshine," Naser-Hall said. "My husband had been out running that morning, stopped in a coffee shop on the way back and said everyone was talking about the storm that was off the coast, but no one seemed very concerned about it. And then she moved into the dorm and six hours later, we evacuated."

The Louisville family, along with thousands of others, heeded Mayor Ray Nagin's warning to get out of town just hours before the storm hit landfall.

"Even during the evacuation process it was all very orderly, people in the city were orderly, as we were leaving people were polite, there weren't great problems, but it was the beginning of chaos," Naser-Hall recalled.

The chaos that ensued in the aftermath of Katrina was unimaginable. The images played out on television screens for days, documenting the horror and misery of the the massive flooding that followed. Emily and her roommate who came back to Louisville with the family were devastated.

What happened in New Orleans five years ago had far reaching tentacles that touched every other state in America, including Kentucky, where many Katrina refugees from the storm have settled.

Some people, like Chef Richard Lowe, at the Coach Lamp Restaurant and Pub at 751 Vine Street, have made new lives for themselves here in Louisville. Lowe vividly recalls riding the storm out inside his home in midtown New Orleans.

"When the water started rising, when the water crested the sidewalks, we kind of started looking at each other - what's going on - never seen this before," Lowe said. "My house was three feet off the ground and by the time the water hit the front door it was like, OK, something's not right here."

After two evacuations - once from New Orleans and once from Houston, Lowe landed in Louisville at the Coach Lamp. And the food has never been better.

"Four years that I've been in charge of the kitchen every menu we've slowly introduced the Louisiana stuff," Lowe said. "We're to the point where now it's maybe a third of the menu, but it's 70 percent of the sales."

A powerful storm that caused such destruction and death so far away, continues to touch families here at home, and has far reaching effects five years later.

By the way Emily was able to return to Tulane after spending a semester at Bellarmine. She graduated and is now attending law school in Chicago.

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