For those who survived Hurricane Katrina 12 years ago or last August's flood in Louisiana, Tropical Storm Harvey could threaten their mental health more than their physical well-being, experts said Saturday.
Hurricanes and other natural disasters are common in Texas and Louisiana, but that can make people more resilient or more likely to experience symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Unnerving news reports can exacerbate this.
Texas meteorologist Scott Pilie warned the hurricane could hover for at least two days over Texas.
"I don’t have to tell you that a hurricane stalled out over one particular location for any extended time frame is potentially devastating, life threatening and a serious potential threat to life and property for Texas," Pilie said on a Facebook Live video.
If you've ever lived through a hurricane, "it is perfectly understandable for this to trigger past things," said psychiatrist Allen Frances, a former Duke University professor.
Harvey is hitting hardest in Texas, where many Katrina victims moved temporarily or permanently after the 2005 hurricane.
"These disasters are events that permeate the psyche of anyone in these coastal areas," said Louisiana health secretary and physician Rebekah Gee.
About 80% of Louisiana's parishes have been under a federal state of emergency at some point in the past year and a half, Gee said. Parishes are the state's version of counties.
Louisiana Health Secretary and physician Rebekah Gee is shown last year at an emergency shelter at Southern University's FG Clark Activity Center with two children staying at the shelter, her legislative liaison Tonya Joiner and an Army official working on disaster relief. (Photo: Courtesy of Rebekah Gee)
Hundreds of the state health department's employees — including the department's chief financial officer — lost their homes in the Baton Rouge flooding a year ago and some are still not back in homes. Gee's in-laws lost their home in Katrina and even her four-year-old twins nervously asked, "Is this Katrina?" when they heard about the coming storm.