Ohio Family Tells What they Saw in the Disaster Zone

FOSTORIA, OHIO -- A Fostoria couple came face-to-face with Hurricane Katrina and managed to make it out alive.  Charles and Valerie Richardson did all the things tourists do when visiting the "Big Easy"... saw the French Quarter, went to a Saints game in the Superdome and enjoyed all that spicy cajun food.  Now safely back on their front porch in Ohio, they say they are shaken but thankful to have escaped the devastation.

Sunday night, the couple laid in the bed of their New Orleans hotel room listening to the wind howl as Hurricane Katrina roared into town. "This was a poured, concrete-enforced building. But you still feel this building shake. That's not good for concrete," said Charles Richardson, a survivor of Katrina. "I was very nervous. Knowing it was coming. But not knowing how bad it was going to be," said Valerie.

Monday morning, the Richardsons awoke to a flooded city without electricity. The airport was closed, and people roamed the streets. Charles says he's a man normally in control of things. On that day, he felt helpless. "Once you see the situation that you're in -- and this was a terrible situation -- you try to look at your options. And then you look at your option and you see you don't have any."

By Tuesday morning, the Richardsons had to find an option. All guests in their powerless hotel were ordered to leave for sanitary reasons. The couple flagged down a car heading to the Baton Rouge airport, sixty miles away. "When we got to Baton Rouge, people were asking us, 'How did you get here? How did you guys make it out of there?'" Charles continued, "Once the hurricane was over, the immediate threat of dying in my mind was gone. It was all about survival at that point."

Within hours, the Richardsons were on a plane headed home after surviving the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States. "[We're] really blessed. Thanking God still," said Valerie. "We got a vacation we'll remember. I tell you that," said Charles.

Source: WTOL-TV, Toledo, Ohio -- sister station of WLOX