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'There’s an emotional impact': Katrina survivors in St. Louis monitor Hurricane Ida in the Gulf Coast

Russell and Marsha Jaffe fled Katrina and settled in St. Louis, raising three children

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis is now home to former Louisiana residents who fled the state during Hurricane Katrina. 

Russell Jaffe and his wife Marsha left and settled in St. Louis to raise a family.

With Hurricane Ida now bearing down on the Gulf Coast, their thoughts and prayers have turned to Louisiana once again.

“For people who have been through it, there’s an emotional impact," Russell said. "And people here are asking me, ‘Why don’t more people get out?’ You have a very short window of time.”

Jaffe spoke to 5 On Your Side Sunday morning.

“I literally just got an email from the nursing home where my mom lives,” he said. “They say the winds are just starting to pick up and they’re seeing some rain.”

In an interview with 5 On Your Side’s Mike Bush shortly after Jaffes arrived in St. Louis, Marsha said, “We kind of looked on the map and found a place that would be drivable and there was St. Louis.”

Russell and Marsha remained in St. Louis and raised three children. All these years later, the focus is on Louisiana once again.

“All I know is I’ve got several sets of friends down there,” said Russell. “We know of at least five families we talked to. None of them have evacuated this storm. They usually do. But this one came really fast.”

Jaffe said he hopes their loved ones have a chance to escape after the hurricane strikes. He said it’s not like a tornado in that the aftermath continues.

“If you think about a tornado,” said Jaffe, “the impact is right then, when the tornado is happening. A hurricane, if you’re indoors, you can ride it out, for the most part. But afterwards it might be a month before you get electricity. There’s water — stagnant water — there’s no plumbing. There are no groceries. There’s no schools. There’s no hospitals and that’s when the real problems start.”

After Katrina, Mike Bush traveled with the Jaffes back to New Orleans to see Preservation Hall, a family-owned jazz venue Russ’s brother continues to operate.

“They were starting to see tickets and take all kinds of COVID precautions,” said Russell. “They were starting to re-open, but for the last 48 hours my brother’s been putting musicians in hotels and helping them get ready.”

At Congregation Shaare Emeth in Creve Coeur, Seth Warner serves as cantor.

“So, this is a picture taken by a neighbor family of our house from 2005 in Hurricane Katrina,” Warner said.

The house in the photo is sitting in three feet of water.

After Katrina, Warner's family returned to a rental home but left New Orleans more than a year later.

“We couldn’t in good conscience stay and rebuild and make our life in New Orleans in a place where we would also have this possibility in the back of our minds,” he said, referring to Hurricane Ida.

Jaffe said he and his wife have talked to several families in Louisiana who could not get out before Ida struck. Many were hoping to ride it out and evacuate in the days after Ida made landfall.

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