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On the night of August 27, 2005, following my recent move to the beach of Gulfport, MS, I remember watching the news and going to bed with some concern but really, not that much. A native to Louisiana and the Gulf Coast region, it’s learned early on that hurricane alerts and warnings come and go; I always loved Mother Nature and still believe her storms are amazing even when they sometimes are huge and monstrous. My internal clock woke me up around dawn on the morning of the 28th and I watched the Weather Channel to see the latest update of Hurricane Katrina and there it was – my home was now being threatened by one of the worst storms ever to develop and come after the United States coastline.

But for me, always finding comfort in nature and with animals, it was not the news that was my strongest warning. Every day I would hear all the birds around my home – just a block away were the seagulls at the beach and in the huge oaks lining my street and yard, all the blue jays, mocking birds and others including squirrels chirping. But this particular morning and the prior night all the sounds had stopped – everything from nature had vanished except the winds and waves crashing.

Knowing wildlife and even domesticated animals are tuned in with Mother Nature and threats from her storms I knew without a doubt to listen to the warning signal, the lack of sound, and move out of the way. I packed up what I could quickly, not much, just a bag of clothes and a box or two of things thinking everything in my home would be ok on the second floor and I would come back after the storm. On my gut instinct, following nature’s guidance, I fled my home on the Mississippi coast but with the stalled traffic going west towards my family in Louisiana, I fled east into Florida.

Silence Lifted

It was a horrible and scary 10 plus hour drive to only be able to flee about 200 miles. Once I started noticing nature abound – the birds, the deer, and raccoons – I began to start looking for a safe haven to park and hopefully sleep while I kept an eye on my home area when the news could do updating reports. As crickets chirped and darkness fell there was a point of loudness from the wind that later followed. As I turned on news reports, I watched the disaster strike my town, waves churning in and taking out streets in what looked to be my neighborhood. At the same time, I could hear the edges of the storm over the hotel room bringing in heavy rains, winds, tornadoes, and hail.

I remember this moment and not being able to sleep that night. I watched reports of the Gulf Coast and all that called it home being savagely destroyed by strengthening winds and rising waves. During this night, I recall see news of New Orleans and people celebrating in the early evening on Bourbon Street that the brunt of the storm had dodged them and headed into Mississippi; little did they realize all their lives would change just a bit later with major flooding due to levee failures from man-made protection giving way to Mother Nature’s strength. It was a memorable day, August 29th, 2005 – my home among thousands others destroyed from being in the hurricane’s strike zone, the ecosystem left in debris and ruins, and New Orleans brought to its knees realizing they were not relinquished from the storm’s dangers as broken levees allowed massive flooding.

Surveying the Harm

According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Katrina was one of the deadliest to hit the United States, only third to the Galveston storm of 1900 and Florida storm of 1928. Not only did this destroy society’s infrastructure and family homes but also the ecosystem with problems like erosion, destruction of wetlands and swamps, and harming wildlife and their habitat.

Along the Gulf Coast, to this day 10 years later especially in the Mississippi area, many of the lands have not been rehabilitated and deforestation is still noticeable. NOAA had stated that this storm caused significant agricultural losses and, “…timber damage will affect this region for decades… damaged estimated around 1.3 billion dollars.”

About five million acres of damaged forest was spread throughout Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. Damaged forests have a rise in the risk of wildfire, insect infestation, and invasive species. According to National Wildlife Association, hurricanes cause an array of ecosystem and wildlife problems such as threatening wildlife refuges, squirrels, deer, birds, sea turtles, fish and marine animals. The responsibility then lies upon us to help preserve what is left and correct the natural problems that we can – for ourselves, nature, and the wildlife.

Survivorship 10 Years Later

Survivorship – that is what I have gained from losing almost everything to this disastrous storm. I kept my life, a few personal belongings, and a loving cat that survived with me who holds a very strong meaning in my life. I refuse to be a victim when my belief is victims are the ones who are unable to survive – humans and animals. Still living on a coastline 10 years later I have rebuilt my life, even better than before, and now my family and I are in a position to look and prepare to move back to the Gulf Coast and make our forever home there, ensuring ways to help out protecting land and animals.

My love for nature and wildlife is still as strong as ever and I will always be fascinated by Mother Nature’s strength. Many have asked since my experience with the disastrous storm how I felt about nature and her natural disasters and how I was not shaken to the core. I always tell them I cannot be mad at Mother Nature and something so natural; we as humans take chances every time we place ourselves in a strike zone. What I have a problem with is humans and society being ill prepared, not helping wildlife and animals who sometimes cannot help themselves, and abusing the ecosystem while simultaneously being angry and blaming nature for doing what she has been doing for thousands of years. The one tip I make sure my family remembers and I remind others of, especially during hurricane season: Be prepared for the unexpected disaster and never leave your animals behind!

Lead Image Source: NOAA