Katrina, Rita survivor recalls 'unnerving' comparison to Harvey

Katrina and Rita got her good. But all Harvey got was her roof.

Johna Reiss was one of thousands who made the Texas refuge their new home after fleeing the storm-ravaged New Orleans.

She has spent three days — with only seven hours of sleep — hunkered in her southeast Houston townhouse with her teen sister, a former colleague and her two pups, Oso and Simon. She is now unable to bypass the flooded roads surrounding her home.

To make matters worse, a persistent leak caused her bathroom roof to cave in Sunday.

Houston convention center shelters people from Harvey

Johna Reiss heard a noise upstairs while waiting out the storm and realized her roof had collapsed into her bathroom.

Johna Reiss heard a noise upstairs while waiting out the storm and realized her roof had collapsed into her bathroom.

(Johna Reiss)

“I heard a noise and went upstairs and tried to clean up as much as we could,” Reiss told the Daily News. “I have a roofing company that is pending to come to my home but they can’t get here.”

As the rain briefly broke Sunday, Reiss surveyed the mess left in Harvey’s wake. She found stranded vehicles, toppled power lines and miles of flooded roads.

“It’s very familiar, which is a little bit unnerving,” Reiss said. “This is a little more devastating to watch because with Katrina, the storm passed over. Harvey has just sat over Houston and has not really left.”

“It’s just like, ‘Hey, I’m here to stay,’” Reiss said, as the lingering tropical storm appears poised to regain strength and strike the Texas coast again.

Texas braces for more rain from Harvey as death toll rises

After Katrina ravaged New Orleans in Aug. 2005, Reiss became one of the estimated 100,000 storm victims that settled in Houston for good. She helped gather an oral history of fellow evacuees called “Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston.”

Reiss fled the city for Houston just before the Category 3 storm struck. Its gusty winds ripped the roof off her lakefront apartment. She returned to find most of her belongings had been destroyed.

Strong winds from Harvey knocked street lights off their poles along Almeda-Genoa Road in southeast Houston.

Strong winds from Harvey knocked street lights off their poles along Almeda-Genoa Road in southeast Houston.

(Johna Reiss)

While recovering from Katrina, she braved the powerful Hurricane Rita in Houston even as it killed more than a hundred people trying to evacuate.

“When Rita hit, me and my family said we’re not running anymore.”

Each storm was equally daunting, but Reiss held out hope that Harvey would not kill as many in its wake. Already 10 people have died compared to more than 1,500 that were killed when the levees failed during Katrina.

Johna Reiss discovered impassable roads near her southeast Houston home on Sunday.

Johna Reiss discovered impassable roads near her southeast Houston home on Sunday.

(Johna Reiss)

“I’m praying there’s not as much loss of life,” Reiss added, commending Houston for not forcing mass evacuations like it did with Rita.

“I’m blessed compared to a lot of people,” Reiss said of her current situation in Houston. “I’m in a place high enough to not be flooded and have power. But that could change at anytime.”

Evacuees fill up cots at the George Brown Convention Center that has been turned into a shelter.

Evacuees fill up cots at the George Brown Convention Center that has been turned into a shelter.

(Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

Reiss said a friend, another Katrina survivor who lives near a Houston dam, did not expect the storm to affect her.

“She’s being evacuated now. She’s petrified because she doesn’t know how to swim,” Reiss said. “That’s devastating, you know. To not only experience it then, but here we go again.”

Tags:
hurricane harvey
houston
texas
hurricanes
hurricane katrina

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