Stressful, Tearful, and Unnerving

A Profile of a New Orleans Native


Augie O'Brien, Writer

Caren Miller has lived in New Orleans her whole life. She is 75 and has five children, Michelle, Caren, Jeffery, Kevin, and Derek, from oldest to youngest. Now only Caren and Kevin leave near her. Her husband died before Katrina. Recently, she evacuated for hurricane delta.

What is it like being under threat of your home being destroyed every year?

It’s scary, stressful, tearful, and unnerving. It could happen any time, and you have no control over it. All those things describe what it’s like.

How do you prepare for a hurricane?

First of all, I fill up my car with gas because you never know how far you will have to go. I then go to the bank and get cash because you can’t get access to money if the electricity goes out. Make sure I have all the essential house papers, insurance card, name of the agent, all of that. Anything that pertains to your house you need to take with you

I have a list of what I need to be self-contained for seven days: medicine, phone, phone chargers, clothes, jacket, and extra shoes. You need to take a blood pressure cuff if you have blood pressure problems. Take medicine bottles, doctor names. Snacks, canned food, tuna fish- something you can eat with a spoon. You can’t think you will leave for seven days and stop at a restaurant, which may be closed. You need to bring paper towels. Anything that you would need to be self-contained. You can’t borrow or buy things from the nearest store. If the list cannot be completed, you do without it.

How worried were you about Hurricane Delta?

I was very worried. When it started on its way here, it looked like it was coming straight for us. I got ready and packed my suitcase. What was more, worrisome was I could not be with my family. Three live out of state, one had covid, and one was out of the country.

Where will I go to get far enough from it? I needed an escape route. I would take a couple of personal things, a picture of my husband and me. I put up five items in my closet, one thing from each of my children’s families because they would be safer in there. I was worried about when to leave. I knew I was going to have to leave, but what day. It was going to hit on Friday and Saturday, and Sunday would be wrong. It was not without my family any of those days. I was nervous and anxious. I talked to your mom and Uncle Kevin and decided north. I decided

I wind up in Shreveport. I prayed. “Ok, god, I’m by myself. With you, I can make these decisions.” Shreveport was where I ended up. I left on Wednesday with all the things I needed to bring

How did you prepare for Katrina?

I made sure my mom and son would be safe; she was coming with me. Derek was living at home with me and came with me. I was able to go with Caren, her husband Lance, and her three children. We packed up and prepared the same way I always do.

Were you expecting so much damage from Katrina?

I had seen many things on tv, but nobody could have expected the devastation. I knew my house was standing. I knew enough water had come in from the canal in the backyard—enough water to mildew. Everything was ruined; everything stunk.

What did you do during Katrina?

We escaped as far as we could, which was Houston, Texas. We stayed there until it was getting somewhat safe enough to come back. When it was safe enough, we arrived back in Prairieville. We waited until we could go back to my house.

How did Katrina affect you once it was over?

I was overwhelmed. Completely overwhelmed.

How did the rebuilding process go?

Horrendous. I couldn’t find a contractor. Nobody would show up when they said they would. I finally found somebody, but they were unknown. Finally, I got insurance money to repair the house. We had to gut the house, so we got help from Samaritan’s Purse. They sent a professor and four college students from New York. They took out sheetrock from 4 feet up. I had to get a trailer because I couldn’t stay at my house.

There were Not enough contractors to do everyone’s house. They would start and be here Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and be back next week. It was not continuous work, which took a long time.

Did you ever want to move to a new house so you wouldn’t have to deal with hurricanes anymore?

No. I did not want to move to another place. I didn’t want to move to another place or house. I like my neighborhood, I like my city, and I like my state. I would take a hurricane over any other weather conditions people live through. I can outrun a storm and stay away from it. We get enormous amounts of information before it gets to you.