From the flooded streets of New Orleans to a thriving business in Charleston
Saturday marks ten years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in what the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) called the single most catastrophic natural disaster in U.S. history. The category three storm had 127 mile per hour winds and ripped through Louisiana and neighboring states.
"It was kind of like pictures of Poland after World War II," Tim Dennis said. "They had cars on top of houses. Big huge shrimping boats in the middle of the street in a crowded city. It was just unbelievable."
Dennis was born in New Orleans and planned on staying until retirement. He had stayed in the city for other hurricanes, but Katrina was different.
Seeing the size of the storm that morning, Dennis chose to evacuate, leaving New Orleans hours before the hurricane hit. He made it to safety, but his beloved city was devastated. His mother's house was destroyed. The tattoo parlor where he worked? Ruined.
But that wasn't the worst part, Dennis said.
"I didn't know what part of my family was dead or alive for about three weeks. Not knowing the welfare of your loved ones," Dennis said. "That was the hardest part."
He said he was too broken to return to the city so found refuge in Charleston with his wife. It was the lowest point in his life, he said, but Lowcountry locals were there to support the survivor.
"It's kind of weird. I go to the lowest point in my life, to losing everything," Dennis said. "To moving here to the Holy City. The love I received here. It made me want to stay."
A decade later, he said his post- Katrina move was "miraculous." He now runs two Blu Gorilla tattoo shops: one on King Street and another, in Goose Creek.
Dennis is also a self-proclaimed Charlestonian. Unless it comes to football. Then, his heart's in New Orleans.
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