'Changed our lives forever' | Woman recalls evacuating ahead of Hurricane Katrina 16 years ago

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Meaghan Clanahan said she packed a suitcase expecting to return to her Louisiana home a few days after the storm passed. That didn’t happen.

KATY, Texas — Sixteen years ago, Hurricane Katrina ravaged parts of the Gulf Coast. The destruction was so severe, some people left Louisiana and moved to Houston.

Meaghan Clanahan is among those who permanently relocated to the Bayou City after the Category 5 hurricane hit on Aug. 29, 2005.

“We lived in Slidell, just north of New Orleans, across from Lake Pontchartrain,” Clanahan said. “We had just bought our first house.”

Clanahan married her husband in the months leading up to Katrina.

The then-25-year-old said she remembers packing a suitcase with clothes, a pearl necklace that was given to her by her father and a pair of diamond earrings. All of her personal possessions, like diplomas and photos, stayed in the couple’s condo.

“Katrina came to shore and changed our lives forever,” she said.

Now, Clanahan is using the power of social media to instantly connect with her family and friends who rode out Hurricane Ida in Louisiana. The communication is very different from the situation in 2005.

Clanahan remembered it took four days for her to receive news of what Katrina did to her first home.

“I saw a picture of our condo apartment complex on the internet. And so, at that point, we knew,” she said.

The Clanahans resettled in Houston. The couple has welcomed two children to the world and lived through other severe storms and hurricanes that have hit Houston. Every time there’s a disturbance in the Gulf, Clanahan said she feels anxious, withdraws from large gatherings and gets nervous.

Those feelings set in as Ida made landfall 16 years to the day after Katrina.

“It’s heart-wrenching. At the same time, in perspective, it gives you a whole new meaning for what’s truly important,” Clanahan said. “Today, keep our Louisiana friends in your prayers, in your thoughts, and tomorrow we get to work.”

She’s pouring herself into Houston Moms, an online community, rallying women to help Louisiana in the days to come.

“That is a coping for me during these times. And it helps,” she said.

Clanahan may have physically moved on, but 16 years after Katrina, Louisiana’s still in her heart.

“It will always resonate,” she said.