NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Like so many North Texans, Willie and Helen Rhodes are keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Isaac.
But the couple has more than a passing interest in the storm.
“I would never, and by that, I mean never want to go through it again,” said an emphatic Willie.
The Rhodes rode out Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, by climbing into the attic as the water rose and rushed through the Upper Ninth Ward.
“It took about 30 minutes,” Willie recalled, “the water was this high (gesturing to his throat), on me, in the house.” After spending the night in the stifling hot attic, a stranger in a boat plucked them from the roof.
While they were “rescued’, the couple said the days that followed were piled with horror upon horror.
“We didn’t eat. We didn’t bathe. It was terrible,” Helen said.
Looking back, Helen said her last glimpse of The Crescent City consisted “bodies at the convention center.”
The bus Willie and Helen boarded brought them to North Texas. They settled in DeSoto and now, almost seven years later, the retired couple watches in fear and frustration as Isaac travels an almost identical path.
Once again, family members in New Orleans have refused to leave.
On the verge of tears Helen had to question, “Why are you doing this?” She said it’s simply a case of not wanting “people to go through it again. It’s overwhelming.”
When the Rhodes family was rescued from the rooftop, Helen says she turned to thank the stranger who had appeared with a boat, but he had disappeared. The now North Texas resident is convinced the man was sent from the heavens.
“That angel we never saw again,” she said. “But, we came to Texas and we found many, many, more angels.”
Once here strangers bought furniture, found the Rhodes family a house, donated a car and gave them a new, hurricane free life.
Despite their recovery, the thought of facing another hurricane or tropical storm gives the family chills. To those thinking they can “ride out” the storm they warned, “Don’t take the chance. Get out. Get out while you can.”
On this seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina the Rhodes say they know they made the right decision to leave and are grateful to be in North Texas.