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Hurricane Katrina Memories Fresh as Southwest Louisiana Battles Storms and Flooding

Fox News correspondent Rick Leventhal couldn’t believe the date when he arrived in the Gulf Coast on Monday to help cover the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey.

Leventhal was dispatched to Lake Charles, La., about 180 miles east of Houston, to report on the edge of the storm’s impact in southwestern Louisiana. The Pelican state was mostly spared this time around, but the Lake Charles area has been pounded by 10 days of rain that has led to residential flooding and evacuations.

Leventhal, who has been with Fox News since 1997, was in Mississippi 12 years ago this week covering the death and destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina. The sight of storm drains and lakes overflowing in Lake Charles this week brought to mind memories of the devastation that left more than 1,800 people dead and 1 million displaced in 2005.

“Some of those wounds and memories are still fresh for many people here,” Leventhal told Variety. “This is a very difficult reminder of how bad things can get.”

But there are also signs of progress. The Lake Charles region was well-prepared to respond to the need for evacuations and shelter for hundreds of families chased from their homes by flood waters. Law enforcement, firefighters, member of the National Guard and fish and wildlife agents were ready with boats and supplies to conduct more than 500 rescues from rising water during the past few days. The scale of the damage in Louisiana pales in comparison to the 30,000-plus affected in Texas, but it’s a start, Leventhal said.

“The lessons have been learned. We’re seeing the evidence,” Leventhal said. “They know now what to do when a major storm threatens the area.” Louisiana officials are working with their counterparts in Texas to take in evacuees as payback for the assistance the Lone Star state offered during Katrina, Leventhal noted.

The “Cajun Navy” of volunteer rescuers has also been active in southwest Louisiana the past few days, Leventhal noted. Those stories provide some of the most dramatic examples of the human toll exacted by Hurricane Harvey. Leventhal spoke to one young woman who had to be rescued from a home she moved into just three days before.

The resilience of the locals in the face of natural disasters never fails to yield inspirational material. Simply put, those who live in this region know that storms and floods are a fact of life. Moving for many is not an option, and not just for economic reasons.

“The primary answer I always get when I ask people why they stay is ‘We love it here. This is our home,’ ” Leventhal said. “They love it to the point that they’re willing to put up with the chance that they’re going to have to get out occasionally when things get bad.’

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