In less than 24 hours, Hurricane Katrina's track shifted dramatically toward New Orleans -- and Action News Meteorologist Shelby Latino tells what happened to her family as they faced the storm.
It's been ten years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall. In Louisiana and Mississippi, more than 2,500 people were reported dead or still missing. The total economic impact is estimated to be over $150 billion.
For Action News Meteorologist Shelby Latino and her family, the storm quite literally hit home:
"The mailbox is underwater. Look how fast this water is rising," said Shelby Latino's aunt in a home video as she watched the rising waters from the window of her Waveland Mississippi home.
Hurricane Katrina's 26 foot storm surge quickly starts to take over her neighborhood. In less than 24 hours, Katrina's track shifted dramatically toward New Orleans. The hurricane nearly doubled in size, and as roadways filled with evacuees, the storm strengthened to a Category 5.
Latino recalls feeling scared knowing how much of her family stayed behind, and then watching the storm track shift towards a dead-on hit for New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The last call Latino's family received before the power went out was from her Uncle Mike. When he called, he asked where to find the life jackets. "We told him they were downstairs in my Paw Paws office," said Latino. "Well he said it's too late, the water is already too high, and the phone went out."
"We're on the second story, that's how high the water's gotten. There's a boat floating down the street," Latino's aunt is heard saying in a home video. Then, a chilling foreshadowing from her cousin, Hunter: "Man, I would hate to see New Orleans right now."
In the coming hours, levee failures would flood about 80% of the city.
As the water receded, massive amounts of debris were left behind. In the months following Hurricane Katrina, Latino and thousands of others began to pick up the pieces. The damage to the communities they loved and the homes they grew up in was unimaginable.
"But what came out of the rubble was nothing short of inspiring," said Latino. "Broken communities, known for their southern hospitality and charm, felt the love of the entire country as volunteers and donations poured in to help."
Ten years of recovery, rebuilding, and resilience have brought about a new normal for the Gulf Coast. The homes are higher and more storm-resistant.
Poverty rates are back to pre-Katrina levels in New Orleans, and many are still facing financial struggles from debt they incurred in the effort to come home after the storm, but there's more work to be done.
As the region continues the recovery, the lessons of the past are laying the foundation for better preparation and more compassion in the future.