Hurricane Rita remembered 8 years later - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Hurricane Rita remembered 8 years later

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This time eight years ago, we were just starting to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.

For many in Southwest Louisiana, Hurricane Rita was one of those life changing events. A time of devastating loss of property -- and the beginning of a stressful period of recovery and rebuilding.

Dora Pinch is one of those who lost her home in Grand Chenier.

"The roof of my house was intact, but across the river from where I live. It's hard, the fact that we're not back home. And it's mostly because the insurance is so high," said Pinch.

Dora now lives in what she calls her "chateau" behind her daughter and son-in-law's house in Lake Charles. But the 89-year-old still thinks of Grand Chenier as home.

"Grand Chenier was such a wonderful community, very family-oriented. You could go for 25 miles and stop at any of the houses, because you knew them all, and have a cup of coffee with them," said Pinch.

In his job as Calcasieu Emergency Planning Director, Dick Gremillion played a key role when Rita hit. He'll never forget that early morning phone call.

"My first standout memory for Hurricane Rita is the call that I got at 3 a.m. from the National Weather Service telling me that Hurricane Rita is coming directly to Southwest Louisiana. And believe me, that was a reality check because we had planned for and talked about these things for years but the realization that it was actually going to come to our area was a totally different feeling," said Gremillion.

Gremillion believes their decision to evacuate areas in jeopardy saved many lives.

"What's remarkable about Hurricane Rita is that we had a major hurricane impact of a metropolitan area such as ours and really had no fatalities. When I go speak to groups I always ask, who stayed for Hurricane Rita? And when people raise their hand I ask them, who will stay again? And I have never had a person say they will stay through another hurricane again," said Gremillion.

Pinch, who went through Rita and Audrey in 1957, agrees.

"If you know that there is a hurricane coming and they're advising you to leave, please leave," said Pinch, who lost many relatives when Audrey hit.
 
Due to the heavy destruction of Hurricane Rita, the name has been retired and will never again be used for an Atlantic hurricane.

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