As Hurricane Harvey roars in from the Gulf of Mexico, long-dormant mental images have been returning for residents all along the Gulf Coast — memories of neck-high flood-waters and teeming rescue shelters and sickly fears, the kind that take hold when a loved-one can’t be found.
They call it “Katrina Brain,” and it’s kicking in with a vengeance for some of the people who survived the killer hurricane that submerged much of New Orleans in 2005, many of whom are now dealing with the threat of a new catastrophe.
Harvey made landfall late Friday, 11 years and 361 days after Katrina put four-fifths of New Orleans underwater.
The threat of a new deluge has the people of the Katrina diaspora — spread widely, but centered around New Orleans, Houston and parts in between — recalling a time they would rather forget and preparing to make do again, if they have to.
“We are scared," said Kelly Pearson of the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans, across the Mississippi River from downtown. "We are scared right now. We are scared over here in New Orleans."
Those fears gained credibility earlier this month when a rainstorm and the failure of several pumps in the low-lying city led to flooding from the Mid-City to the neighborhoods of Treme, Lakeview and downtown.
“You try to keep moving like everything is normal, knowing it could turn un-normal in the blink of an eye,” said Kelly Pearson of Algiers, Louisiana.
Pearson, 54, lost an aunt in the storm and saw many around her lose much more.
“You do get flashbacks," she said. "Some do get PTSD. But you try to keep moving like everything is normal, knowing it could turn un-normal in the blink of an eye.”
Staff members at the local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness noted that some people have become inured to storm threats, but that anxiety and other issues lurk just below the surface. At a training for volunteers this week, education coordinator Shannon Williams said several people talked about how the wallop of Katrina lingered.
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