Katrina: 15 years later

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — This year marks the 15-year anniversary of the most active hurricane season ever.

2005 produced 27 named storms, including one of the deadliest and costliest disasters in U.S. history, Hurricane Katrina. Its impacts were felt all along the Gulf coast, including here in Alabama. It was also Alabamians who were among the first to pitch in and help our neighbors on the coast. 

On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina came ashore at Plaquemines Parish, La., the most devastating images from that day, and the days that followed were seen from New Orleans, where flooding submerged 80% of the city killing more than a thousand residents, all the way to the Mississippi Gulf coast as a 27-foot storm surge washed six miles inland leaving devastation in its wake.

Denny Baynham is a Marengo County firefighter and first responder. He was also a member of a relief team that went to help in the hardest-hit areas after Katrina.

“Going through New Orleans was heartbreaking. To see all the destruction, I mean cars all over the place,” Baynham said.

But going to help was a debt he had to repay after crews from Grand Isle, La. came to help a year before Hurricane Ivan struck Mobile. He said it’s hard to imagine what rescue crews had to see and do right after the storm. 

“I give my heart to those first responders, down there that had to go to these houses, from house to house, not knowing if they are going to get somebody alive or somebody that’s gone,” he said.

Luckily, our state escaped the most severe impacts from this historic storm, but it still claimed two lives with storm-surge damage to Mobile Bay, washing boats, oil rigs, piers and bridges ashore, and cutting a new canal into Dauphin Island. 

First responders from around Alabama were some of the first from other states to survey the damage left by Katrina. Crews were dispatched to help in clean up and rescue efforts, but Baynham says the compassion his crew was able to show storm victims was just as important.

“Just the time to go through there, communicate, socialize with them and everything, and see the stuff they went through, it was unreal,” he said.

As we mark the 15th anniversary of this terrible storm, Baynahm hopes the most vulnerable residents living along the coast always heed warnings to prepare and evacuate, just in case mother nature unleashes another monster hurricane.


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