Family finds refuge in village from Hurricane Ida
- Published: October 8, 2021
What happens after a hurricane?
Loss of electricity, suspension of emergency services and breakdowns in government relief programs often leave neighbors turning to each other.
Newly returned to town after an extended stay in Louisiana, Yellow Springs resident Khara Scott-Bey wants to challenge the community to extend its hospitality to Patrick Bowman Sr. and his family, who left New Orleans after Hurricane Ida made landfall on Sunday, Aug. 29.
Scott-Bey says that when she began her stay in New Orleans after her mother died in September 2020, she bore witness to an extraordinary level of community engagement and resilience in the city.
“It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced,” she said. “These people had a long history of living in this city, unlike Yellow Springs, which is a community made up of fragmented histories.”
After spending nearly a year in New Orleans, Scott-Bey decided to remain during the hurricane season.
“I lived in a place that we believed wouldn’t be as impacted by the storm,” she said. “Most people were staying, with the exception of folks not originally from New Orleans who could afford to leave.” But that was before Ida picked up speed and water, developing into a category 4 hurricane, with wind gusts reaching 150 mph.
“We knew on Wednesday that Hurricane Ida would arrive on Sunday, and I couldn’t move fast enough,” Scott-Bey said. “About 48 hours before, a friend of mine told me that the hurricane was gaining more energy because the temperature of the water was rising.”
Allen Hunt, a Wright State physics professor, says hurricanes like Ida are forming faster and are wetter than previous hurricanes on record.
“The jet stream is changing, so the hurricanes may not last as long, but the increasing warmth of the oceans allow them to strengthen more rapidly,” Hunt said.
Relying on the knowledge of those around her, Scott-Bey decided to leave about 10 hours before the storm was due to make landfall. Her friend, Patrick Bowman Sr., advised that she would be able to move faster because most people would be off the highway.
“We kind of traded favors,” Bowman said. “We helped her get through the storm, and she has helped us out after.”
Scott-Bey made it safely to Alabama, but she has lingering concerns about the government’s response.
“There hasn’t been good media coverage,” Scott-Bey said. “I’m overcome with rage because it seems that Black lives don’t matter unless a dead Black body is trending.”
In lieu of government services, Scott-Bey has witnessed the community coming together to meet its needs, using social media to coordinate support. According to Scott-Bey, people with generators have offered their homes as cooling stations, and financial support is being disseminated through online financial platforms like Cash App.
Bowman said that members of his family, including his mother and his children’s mother, stayed in New Orleans throughout the storm, but the lack of resources in the aftermath made them reconsider evacuating.
“There wasn’t enough gas to run their generators,” Bowman said. “I wanted to get them out.”
“We received an official announcement before the storm that EMS and cell services were suspended,” Scott-Bey said. “We weren’t expected to have power back for a month. That lack of services costs people — it costs them trust, it costs them safety.”
With that lack of trust and safety a reality for many families in her circle, Scott-Bey decided to offer mutual aid to a family displaced by the hurricane.
“I have a place and a community in Yellow Springs,” Scott-Bey said. “I told them to come with me, and we will figure out how to help. This doesn’t have to be a trauma. It can be an experience of people coming in and building space.”
Bowman detailed his family’s journey, explaining that they initially evacuated to Alabama, then temporarily to Houston while they waited for their application for FEMA funds to process.
“I was denied FEMA aid, so we pooled our resources and returned to New Orleans to salvage what we could,” Bowman said. “We dumped the spoiled food, packed what clothes we could, and got back on the road.”
Because of COVID-19 anxieties, the family drove late into the night, stopping only when necessary, once in Little Rock, Ark., and once in Louisville, Ky.
“There were seven of us traveling, including our children, ages 17, 13, 7, 6, and 1,” Bowman said. “We spent about four days on the road.”
Upon her return to the village, Scott-Bey reached out to members of the local chapter of Be Present, an organization that focuses on the mental health of its members. Before she could prepare a space for the family of seven, she needed to confer with members of her local community in the Vale, an intentional community located on the outskirts of the village.
“At its best, Yellow Springs is an incredibly welcoming community,” Scott-Bey said. “But COVID anxieties are a reality, and the family I am hosting is unvaccinated.”
The family is coming from Louisanna, a state with an overall vaccination rate of 42%. The vaccination rate is lower among Black residents.
“We have to remember the generational harms that the United States has perpetuated against Black people,” Scott-Bey said.
“This family doesn’t trust the system with their bodies, and I have to respect that.”
To honor the safety of the family and her neighbors in the Vale, Scott-Bey decided to house the family in her home. Doing so ensures that the family stays together, but Scott-Bey said she still needs the support of the wider Yellow Springs community.
“Our personal safety doesn’t have to make other communities more vulnerable,” Scott-Bey said. “I thought about what I would do if this was reversed, and then I realized that it was reversed — this family took me in when all they had was a house full of kids.”
Reflecting on their time in Yellow Springs so far, Bowman said it has given them clarity and safety as they prepare to go home and put their lives back together.
“What Ohio represents is getting back to what’s really important about life,” Bowman said. “We are seeing individuals working together. I know it’s happening in New Orleans, and if I didn’t have my own family I would be volunteering to help people with the cleanup.”
Bowman said that he is stunned by the outpouring of support from the community.
“I’m ecstatic that there’s people in YS willing to help and show genuine human kindness. I appreciate all the love and help and energy that is swarming; it feels like home.”
Scott-Bey hopes that this experience will galvanize the community to support not only this family, but also others who are experiencing natural disasters due to climate change.
“We are safe from a lot of things in the Midwest, and it is time to extend that safety to others,” she said. “I want us to feel proud that we were able to receive the blessing of this family and create honey out of trauma. This is an opportunity to create love in action.”