When Hurricane Ida hit the tiny coastal town of Lafitte, Louisiana, 32-year-old Elizabeth had a difficult decision to make.
She, her parents and her eight cats needed to find a safe place to stay as the storm ravaged the small community and many other parts of the state.
“We knew that this was serious when we saw the forecasts” on August 27, she told The National from a hotel room.
“That’s when I made the hotel reservation.”
She is now holed up in the room with her eight rescue cats while her parents stay with relatives.
“We would have boarded [the cats] at a vet but it was too expensive. Thankfully, this hotel was pet friendly and accommodated us due to the circumstances,” said Elizabeth, who asked to use an alias for fear of online harassment.
“Ida grew in strength quickly. She came out of nowhere.”
So far, Ida has left hundreds of thousands without power or water in the sweltering summer heat. Like thousands of others, Elizabeth has no idea what happened to her family home.
“There is still [a] feeling of uncertainty and helplessness … We don’t have much communication with Lafitte because phone service is struggling. We don’t know the status of our house. And we have no idea when we’ll be able to return.”
While she waits for the storm to subside, Elizabeth decided to post photos of her hotel room on social media platform Reddit. The post took off, garnering hundreds of comments.
“Sending well wishes to you and those babies,” one poster said.
Others commended her for deciding to take the cats with her during the evacuation.
“So many pet owners abandon their pets in a crisis. Bless you!” wrote another poster
Elizabeth said she would “rather die in a storm” than abandon them.
“They are my heart,” she said.
Four of the eight cats are siblings that Elizabeth bottle-fed during the pandemic.
“Two of them were saved from bridges as kittens. One is an outdoor and one adopted us.”
As a fisheries biologist, Elizabeth works closely with animals.
“I have a soft spot for all animals, especially cats,” she said.
This is not Elizabeth's first encounter with a devastating storm.
“I was 16 when [Hurricane] Katrina hit. We ended up staying at a hotel for three weeks. Katrina was life changing. New Orleans has never been the same,” she said.
Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 storm, killed more than 1,800 people and caused $125 billion in damage when it landed in August 2005, hitting the city of New Orleans and surrounding areas the hardest.
Although there are many similarities between Ida and Katrina, for Elizabeth, she says being an adult means the situation is more stressful as there are bigger decisions to be made.
“Since Katrina, we’ve had several other storms devastating the area. My family has lived in Lafitte for generations and they’ve never encountered storms like this. Massive storm after massive storm.”
Luckily, she says her family has a contingency plan for when natural disasters hit.
“My family is fortunate enough to have insurance for situations like this. It’s an extra expense so not everyone can afford it.”