Remembering Katrina … 10 years later

Published 1:14 am Saturday, August 29, 2015

The response to Hurricane Katrina from the federal level on down is what Washington Parish officials remember to this day.

Katrina made landfall exactly 10 years ago — on Aug. 29, 2005, and blasted Washington Parish, along with the rest of southern Louisiana and Mississippi.

Toye Taylor, who served as Washington Parish President from 1998 to 2008, said the federal response to the disaster was more than shameful.

“A lot of things really come to mind,” he said. “Seeing some of the specials on television this week have evoked a lot of feelings for me personally.

“I still have a lot of feelings about the way the federal government didn’t respond. There were no communications whatsoever. Everything came to a stop.”

Taylor said the day after the storm, he figured help would arrive for Washington Parish.

“I really thought a helicopter was going to drop out of the sky to let us know the government knew about us,” Taylor said. “We were in a black hole, but that was when I saw the resilience of our people and faith-based groups.”

Mack McGehee served as Bogalusa mayor from 1998-2010. He said he still feels the emotional scars.

“Katrina was nothing any of us expected,” he said. “We were isolated from major cities. We didn’t have people sitting on roofs of their homes like in New Orleans, but we had our share of problems.
“It was five days before federal officials figured out where Bogalusa was. Those first five days were some of the most trying days I’ve ever gone through.”

McGehee said pharmacists Kevin and Bill Neilson answered his call for assistance.

“I told them that I had to have a drug store open because the elderly needed insulin and medication,” he said.

A makeshift pharmacy was opened at Charity Hospital, at the brothers’ expense, McGehee said.

“That shows the quality of people in this area,” McGehee said. “They filled prescriptions for about 30 days.”

Current Franklinton Mayor Wayne Fleming was mayor pro tem of the Board of Aldermen  in 2005.

“When Katrina came through, Franklinton was like every other town without power for several weeks,” Fleming said. “People were helping out any way they could.”

Fleming said City Hall remained open immediately after the storm. He noted that the town’s water supply was never an issue because generators were used.

“All of our people in Franklinton got together and did a great job. I hope I never live to see another storm like Katrina,” Fleming said.