Ike Brings Back Katrina's Bad Memories

Houston residents are still coping with no electricity and waiting in long lines for water and ice. Authorities say it may be another week before power is restored. For people who survived Hurricane Katrina, the storm has brought back painful memories.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

So that's the story in one small town. Let's go next to the big city, Houston. That's where people still face long lines for ice and water and gasoline. Most do not have electricity, and authorities say it may be another week before they get their power back. And some of the people affected are people who relocated to Houston after Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Ike brought back memories, as NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN: Dionne Coleman(ph) and her three sons rode out Ike in their two bedroom South Houston apartment, but Coleman says she was awake all night.

Ms. DIONNE COLEMAN: You know, so I'm laying there. I'm watching the window, like when Katrina came, I was doing the same thing. It got dark and the windows started shaking. And it felt like the building moved. I'm like, oh lord.

KAHN: Coleman jumped up and went into the living room. The winds were so strong it whipped rainwater under her door and into the apartment. That made her remember wading through flooded New Orleans searching for help.

Ms. COLEMAN: When I stepped in the water, it's like I call it a flashback, you know, the water. I'll be all right as long as I don't see no water rising. You know, when I stepped in my living room that was it. It sent me back.

KAHN: Lionel Nicholson(ph) says he also had flashbacks of Katrina the night Ike hit Houston.

Mr. LIONEL NICHOLSON: Yeah, a little bit, a little bit yeah. A little bit.

KAHN: In New Orleans, he spent three and a half days on the second floor of a flooded home waiting for help. But this time around, he said his newfound faith in God pulled him through.

Mr. NICHOLSON: I knew if danger would come, I knew he's just going to lead me through it. So that's what I have my faith in right now.

KAHN: Both Nicholson and Coleman credit their renewed faith to Pastor Ronald Smith. It was three years ago that Pastor Smith picked the two of them up from the Houston Astrodome which served as a massive shelter for Katrina survivors. Smith brought them to his church. He housed, fed, and helped dozens of Katrina victims for as long as they needed. Smith says in Coleman's case, that turned out to be four months.

Reverend RONALD SMITH (Pastor, Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church): She was the last one to leave and the first one back.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KAHN: Coleman is back with her son sleeping in the church. Her apartment doesn't have power. The church's came back on three days ago, but it also has a lot of rain damage. Ike's winds snapped the steeple off the roof, and water poured in.

Reverend SMITH: If you look, that whole ceiling has sagged.

KAHN: It has.

Reverend SMITH: Yeah, so...

KAHN: What are you going to do?

Reverend SMITH: We're going to have to tear it all out.

KAHN: Smith says he's looking at 40,000 dollars in repairs, most of which is not covered by insurance. But despite the damage, spirits at the church are high.

(Soundbite of volunteers talking)

KAHN: A handful of volunteers have arrived to clean up roof shingles, debris, and tree limbs littered around the grounds. They trudged the church's neon sign out from the sanctuary where it was safe from Ike's high wind. It took seven men to carry it outside and bolt it back on to its concrete pedestal.

Unidentified Man: We are back in business. There it is.

KAHN: Actually, Smith is back in the shelter business. Not only are Dionne Coleman and her son spending the night at the church, so are a dozen of his congregants whose homes were damaged. Sister Willa May Taylor says the church still has plenty of cots.

Sister WILLA MAY TAYLOR: One of these cots the pastor says we have from Katrina, he still have them. I hope for tonight that I don't fall out of the bed.

KAHN: For Reverend Richard Ruben and his wife, sleeping on the church floor in an air bed has been a challenge.

Reverend RICHARD RUBEN: When I got into our bed, she fell out on the other side.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Reverend RUBEN: Then she got back into bed. I fell off on this side.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KAHN: As Coleman laughs uncontrollably in the background, Ruben says the camaraderie has been a great distraction.

Reverend RUBEN: I think everybody forgot about really we have problems these nights we've been spending here together.

KAHN: Ruben's home had extensive water damage, and the power may not be back in Coleman's apartment for weeks. So together they might have many more nights forgetting the problems Hurricane Ike has caused. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Houston.

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