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  • Writer's pictureCherie Claire

Wish I could love this time of year.

Fifteen years ago a storm entered the Gulf of Mexico and my life changed forever. So much so that I created a character — New Orleans' Viola Valentine — who had a similar experience, allowing me to write my grief through her.

I'll never forget waking up on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2005, my husband standing in the doorway of our bedroom.

"Hurricane Katrina's a Category 5!" he said.

This week, I woke to Laura having grown to a Category 3 storm with predictions it would turn into a 4, then slip back to a 3 at landfall. This meant catastrophic damage to Louisiana's southwest coast, Lake Charles, and the southeast corner of Texas. Even Shreveport, a northern Louisiana city far from the coast, was in Laura's path.

For those of you who remember Hurricane Katrina from 2005, or have read about the record-breaking storm, you know that it flooded 80 percent of New Orleans, the entire St. Bernard Parish and did untold damage to surrounding parishes for miles around. The Mississippi Coast, the storm's ground zero, was devastated, buildings and homes literally swept away. And so many lives were lost throughout the Gulf South.

But later that month another giant hit the southwestern corner of Louisiana, leaving a swath of damage in its wake. I covered the aftermaths of Hurricane Rita — as I did Katrina — and found miles and miles of nothing, some homes still completely intact but miles from their foundation.

I wrote this just before Laura arrived, my heart aching because I knew what was coming. As I update this now, I have to report that thousands and thousands are without power, many homeless. Lake Charles and the surrounding area have been devastated. And there are four more storms in the Atlantic. Can't wait for fall is an understatement at my house.

If you want to help out the people impacted by Laura, please donate to the organizations below (the New York Times link has a nice list on its page). Louisiana thanks you.

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