Hurricane victims take refuge in Suffolk

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 19, 2005

As the winds and thunder roared and rain came down in geysers, Annie Price sat in her church in Biloxi, Miss., praying with friends that Hurricane Katrina wouldn’t get inside.

She hoped that the church, unlike her home, would be spared the storm’s wrath. She thought of her daughter and granddaughter, who had fled to Pensacola, Fla., and wondered if she’d get the chance to see them again. And if she managed to get through the storm, could she find a dialysis machine for her weekly visit?

The water started seeping through the doors and windows of the church. Soon, the basement was flooded.

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&uot;We looked out the window, and all we could see was water,&uot; she says. &uot;It was like there was an ocean out there.&uot;

The water kept coming, and soon was a few feet high.

Then it stopped. Soon, it receded.

The next day, Annie stepped out and saw what Katrina had done – and immediately wished she hadn’t.

&uot;I’ve been through other hurricanes,&uot; she says, &uot;but nothing like this one. They didn’t bring high water. They didn’t leave highways in shambles. My husband wouldn’t let me go look at our house.&uot;

Althea Riley and her daughters, Laken and Aletha, wouldn’t get the chance to see their home again either. The Friday before the storm hit, they’d fled from their home in Plaque Mines Parish, about 45 miles south of New Orleans, to Alabama.

&uot;It was scary to see how big that thing was,&uot; Althea remembers. &uot;The news was coming on every hour. We’d lived there all our lives, and we’d never seen anything like Katrina. &uot;When they said storm, we didn’t play around. We packed up and left.&uot;

When they left, the storm was 500 miles south of New Orleans.

Meanwhile, back in Biloxi, Annie waited for her daughter and granddaughter to come back for her.

&uot;It was hot and really uncomfortable,&uot; she remembers. &uot;We didn’t have a bathroom to go to, because the water wouldn’t work. Some of our friends drowned in the storm.&uot;

Over the next few days, they all arrived in Suffolk.

Annie, her daughter and granddaughter are staying with Annie’s other daughter, Sheila, on Pasture Cove Road. Price’s granddaughter, Ndyah, entered the second grade at Driver Elementary.

Riley and daughters are staying with a friend on Cedar Street. They arrived just in time for Laken to begin school at Lakeland High School.

&uot;Lakeland’s a nice school,&uot; Laken says. &uot;I’ve made a lot of new friends. It’s bigger than my other one. My birthday just passed, and they gave me gifts and a party.&uot;

Suffolk, Ndyah says, &uot;is quiet, and I like to go to the beach. I like After School (a daycare-type program at Driver). We do homework and eat snacks and do activities. I’ve made a lot of friends.&uot;

Althea can’t even watch the news.

&uot;I stopped looking at it, because it makes me sick,&uot; she says. &uot;I talked to my brother (in Louisiana), and he told me that all the windows in our house were breaking, and the furniture was flipped around.

&uot;I really don’t know,&uot; she says, when asked if she’ll go back. &uot;My kids ask me, ‘Mom, can we go home?’ I probably won’t stay in Virginia; I’ll probably go as close to (Plaque) as possible.

&uot;I’d like to go back home; it’s a peaceful place where everybody knows everybody.&uot;

Though she’s also unsure about returning to the south, Annie and her family have been doing all right.

&uot;I found a dialysis unit,&uot; she says. &uot;I missed a week, but I just had to watch what I ate and drank. I feel blessed and thankful. My husband’s down there now working on our house, and he says he’s going to fix it.&uot;