Seeing Through the Eye of the Storm
Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans ombudsman Sedonia Cheatham does not take hurricane season lightly.
She has been through the worst parts of hurricanes at various points in her life. She saw through the eyes of a child in Hurricane Andrew; through the eyes of a sibling, a Coast Guard spouse and mother in Hurricane Katrina; and through the eyes of an ombudsman in Hurricane Isaac.
These experiences have given her a multidimensional perspective that she shares out of care for other Coast Guardsmen.
So what is the most important piece of advice she has for you?
“Prepare and take every storm seriously, because the one you don’t, could be the one that causes you loss,” said Cheatham.
Cheatham recalls running out of supplies and the emotional toll Katrina took, knowing that her siblings and their children were among those in New Orleans affected by the intense storm, and she had no way to find them or help.
“For weeks, I searched for my family with little hope, wondering even if they survived. It took another month after that to find them. They had lost everything but their lives, living in an unfamiliar place with all their cherished memories forever lost to them,” she said.
To mitigate situations like this, Ready Coast Guard recommends having an emergency communication plan with an appointed out-of-town contact everyone can check in with, lessening the stress of lost communication.
In addition, Ready Coast Guard urges families in hurricane prone areas to set aside an emergency supply kit with enough to survive on for a minimum of seven to 10 days.
The feeling of helplessness to contact and aid her family, inspired Cheatham and her family to request Air Station New Orleans as their next duty station where she immersed herself in helping others and became an ombudsman as hurricane Isaac was due to hit.
“I researched the Coast Guard’s storm preparedness guidelines and NOAA, looked back at my notes and news stories about Katrina; what went wrong, what could have been done, and what I could do differently as one person. I gathered a list of items needed to weather a storm in my home and extras for anyone to share. Then, I got a list of Coasties and my own extended family and called all of them and asked their plans and if they were safe,” she said.
Cheatham’s personal experiences demonstrated that preparation—building an emergency supply kit, making an emergency and communication plan, and educating oneself about an emergency—helps lessen the blow and can pull you through the “eye of a storm.”
Resources to stay ready and safe
More information on preparing for hurricane season