East Tennessee Hurricane Katrina evacuees reflect as storm threatens Gulf Coast

LENOIR CITY, Tenn. (WATE) – Many families in the Gulf are saying goodbye to their homes and possessions as they evacuate because of Hurricane Harvey.

More than 50 volunteers with the Knoxville American Red Cross are on standby to respond and disaster relief trucks that are stocked with medical and emergency supplies are also ready to deploy at any time.

Seeing the forecasts and news of Hurricane Harvey are bringing back a flash of heartbreaking memories for those who’ve lived through Hurricane Katrina. One Loudon County family, originally from New Orleans, says they’re sending their prayers to families in the storm’s path as they brace for the worst.

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Lenoir City is home now for the Diaz family. It has been for years now, and they say it’s hard to believe within just a few days it will mark 12 years since Hurricane Katrina destroyed so much in Louisiana.

Picture after picture scrolled through a slideshow the Diaz family played on their television.

“Two or three blocks down, there were houses on top of each other,” said Vincente Diaz.

The slideshow is a diary of sorts, they played on Friday, blinking back tears as they remembered Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s heartbreaking. I just wanted to cry and I might cry now,” said Karen Diaz.

They say back then, each family had a story, one that was always worse and at the time they decided to evacuate.

“My mom said, ‘You know I went through Hurricane Betsy and there was only flooding in the street. I’ll be alright.’ And we said, ‘No, mom. You’re coming with us.’ She would’ve never survived,” said Karen Diaz.

The Diaz home survived with just wind damage, but their mother’s was submerged eight feet of water which took from the night of the storm in August 2005 to November 1 of that year to recede.

Watching the slideshow of pictures is also a reminder for the family of the hurricane threatening the gulf.

“We know what it’s like and it breaks my heart,” added Karen Diaz.

That’s why they’re now praying for everyone, especially those not wanting to evacuate.

“Playing it like you can survive this, you can’t. You really can’t. You need to get out of the way and come back later to pick up the pieces,” said Vincente.

The Diaz family can remember all the help they received back in 2005 and know it’s something homeowners in the gulf will encounter too.

“People are good-hearted people out there and they will help,” said Karen.

A number of sheltesr are ready to open up in the gulf. If you’re wondering how you can help families who may be displaced, the American Red Cross saying the best way to help families recover is to donate. You can do it online here or call 1-800-RED CROSS. To make a $10 donation, you can text the word REDCROSS to 90999.

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