East Chicago native hunkers down for hurricane

2012-08-29T18:00:00Z 2012-09-07T22:41:53Z East Chicago native hunkers down for hurricaneBy Chelsea Schneider Kirk chelsea.schneider@nwi.com, (219) 933-3241 nwitimes.com

Donna Erwin and her husband moved to New Orleans last month -- just in time to experience their first hurricane.

Hurricane Isaac intensified Wednesday and the couple decided to wait out the storm in their apartment in the upstairs of a 100-year-old home.

Erwin, an East Chicago native, said she was shocked by how long the storm was lasting. The power went out at 2 a.m. Wednesday, and Erwin said she had no clue when the storm would subside.

“I really wanted to get out of town for this because I was very nervous,” Erwin said. “By the time I got off of work on Monday, and we realized it upgraded from a tropical storm to a hurricane, it was too late. The roads were just crazy.

“We talked to some of the neighbors who have lived here for a long time, and they assured us really it would be OK, so we went with that.”

Isaac was downgraded to a tropical storm Wednesday afternoon. Its remnants are predicted to bring rain to Northwest Indiana this weekend, as the storm moves north from Louisiana.

For Hobart resident Star Dubre, the bad weather was her sign to prepare for deployment with the American Red Cross. Dubre flew to Florida on Saturday and was in Pensacola on Wednesday afternoon. Dubre said she expected her team would work its way up to Mississippi.

“We are here to help and we will go anywhere and everywhere we need to go,” Dubre said.

For this storm, the American Red Cross veteran will focus on providing shelter for residents impacted by power outages and flooding.

“The need will be great,” Dubre said.

As of Wednesday, at least four Northwest Indiana residents had been deployed through the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, said  Martha Carlos, the Red Cross regional chief communications officer. An emergency response vehicle also was dispatched from the region.

Growing up in East Chicago, Erwin recalled her father gathering up the family to take shelter during tornado warnings. The couple, who relocated from Washington D.C., also experienced “Snowmageddon” and the sweeping power outages in July.

But Isaac was dramatic, Erwin said.

“You go outside and even (Tuesday) morning before it really hit, and the rain was like gunshots. It hurt like needles. It hurt so bad just to stand outside,” Erwin said. "It's pretty crazy.”

Erwin's husband's new job at a charter school brought the couple to New Orleans. Many of the kids he teaches were impacted by Hurricane Katrina.

Erwin imagined the storm hitting on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina brought up “awful memories” for New Orleans residents.

“It's been really quite stunning to hear people's stories and to see how resilient they are,” Erwin said. “How they have really come back from hell.”

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