BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - A Coast native who already lived through Hurricane Katrina as a teenager found herself in a similar situation last week as Hurricane Laura barreled through her Louisiana town. Now, she’s back home on the Coast trying to pick up the pieces.
Ashley Thomas, who is now 29, was just a teenager when Katrina devastated South Mississippi. This week, she was featured on Good Morning America talking about her experience surviving Hurricane Laura.
For the Gulf Coast native, she said Laura was eerily familiar.
“It was very familiar. I was 14 when Katrina hit,” Thomas said. “It was all just a shock. We were comparing everything to Katrina so we didn’t think anything could ever be that bad. Then, when daylight breaks and you can actually see what you’ve got left and what’s lost and what’s there, that wasn’t and what’s there that you’ve never seen before from somebody else’s home or somebody else’s property. It was all just a very familiar feeling, a very uncomfortable feeling.”
Ashley and her family rode out the storm in their Sulphur, La. home. She and her wife thought they were well-prepared for the storm, but realized quickly that was not the case.
“I felt very guilty for leaving, for putting my child in that situation that she never deserved to be in or needed to be in, but we thought we were prepared enough,” she said. “We thought being in a stand-alone home that’s not a house trailer was safe. We boarded our windows, we had generators, we had plenty of gas, we had stocked up on foods and water. And, you know, we just did what we thought was the best and it wound up not being the case.”
The roof of their home was torn off while they were sheltering inside.
“The roof was ripped off while we were inside. It blew all of the insulation into the house all over everyone. So, it took us a minute to, you know, be able to breathe and be able to see, things like that. After the roof came off, we huddled in the closet and once the eye passed over, we got out of the house and gained entry into a construction [site] next door.”
The construction site next door served as a shelter for the Thomas’ and their neighbors.
“Once we got everybody in our home into that new construction, my wife and our friend that was with us also went back out and got his family off of the streets and then our neighbors across the street as well.”
Ashley and her daughter, Caraline, evacuated back to the coast this week while her wife, Tiffany, takes care of insurance claims and their home back in Louisiana. She urges everyone here not to forget about what they experienced 15-years-ago with Hurricane Katrina and to extend a hand to our Gulf Coast neighbors to the west.
“I just don’t want us over here to forget what we did go through, and there are other people not that far going through it as well and they still need all the help that is available.”
Ashley and her family plan to make a permanent move back to Ocean Springs once everything is settled with their home in Louisiana.
Ashley’s mother has set up a Go Fund Me to help raise money for her daughter’s family. To donate, click HERE.