‘I gained a lot, but I lost a lot’: Knoxville woman remembers Hurricane Katrina

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Saturday marks 15 years since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. The Category 5 storm, that weakened to a Category 3 that made landfall with winds near 127 mph, was followed by severe flooding, and multiple levee breaches.

Estimates show $161 billion in damage left behind. More than 1,800 people died, either directly or indirectly due to the storm. And, more than 1 million people were displaced from their homes.

Fifteen years later, New Orleans still hasn’t fully bounced back. Census data shows before Katrina, the city population stood around 485,000. It fell by more than half one year after landfall, to 230,000. In 2019, their estimated population was 390,000.

Angela Banks who has lived in Knoxville since evacuating St. Bernard parish 15 years ago.
She says she misses her home, the culture, traditions, Cajun seafood, and the togetherness she felt with having family close by.

“We done a lot together as a family. What I really miss is the holidays, because everybody’s house was open. You went from house to house to house…it just was great,” she said.

Katrina took their home and everything inside. The water also took friends, neighbors, and family, including her father, father-in-law, and two uncles.

“I knew my father wasn’t going to make it because he was on life support. In Methodist hospital, the generators was on the bottom. So when those generators went out, it cut everything off,” Banks added.

Despite levee reinforcements near her hometown, she’s still worried for her family, still living there, from June to November (hurricane season).

“From 15 years ago, I’m much better. But it’s still a feeling that, what if this happens again. What if there’s another Katrina,” she said.

She smiles through all the loss she’s gone through, and is quick to point out the things she’s gained since living in East Tennessee.

“That beautiful new grandbaby I had when I got here…he changed it all,” she said. “He’s 14 now. But, he changed our life. Then, Zoe came along. We lost a lot but we gained two precious souls.”

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