"I watched people lose their lives": Colorado native describes surviving Katrina 16 years ago

Starshine Sandoval
Posted at 3:48 PM, Aug 29, 2021

DENVER -- Sixteen years after Hurricane Katrina's landfall, the memories of the devastation are still fresh in a Denver woman's mind.

"I watched people lose their lives there. It shouldn't have happened. We should have been able to respond better," Starshine Sandoval said Sunday.

The Colorado native says she was vacationing in New Orleans when the Category 3 hurricane hit on Aug. 29, 2005.

"When the levee broke, it was just like a movie. I mean, it just completely flooded, and we lost the full first three floors of our hotel," she said.

For three days, Sandoval says she and others hunkered in their hotel, slowly realizing no one was coming to help them. They came up with a plan.

"We jumped out the fourth-story window into the water," she said. "There were snakes, dead bodies. It was just wading through to just get there."

Sandoval says the National Guard eventually rescued them from the water, and they hitchhiked to Baton Rouge as soon as they were on dry land to get a flight out.

"People lost everything, lost their homes. And a lot of people weren't even allowed to go back and were completely displaced from everything they knew," she said. "I was fortunate enough that I had a home to go to from leaving there. I'm just I'm so grateful for that."

Baton Rouge and New Orleans will always have a special place in her heart, she says, especially now as Louisiana gets hit by yet another storm.

"I really pray and hope that we don't see as much devastation as we did with [Katrina] and that we're better prepared for all of this," Sandoval said.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Ida made landfall Sunday afternoon near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, as a category four hurricane.