Katrina survivor dedicates herself to helping Hurricane Florence victims

CHAPEL HILL, NC – Mandey Brown survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005, so she knows what it’s like to lose everything to a massive storm.

Now she’s doing everything she can to help her neighbors recover from Hurricane Florence.

Brown said she still wakes up at night thinking about the aftermath of Katrina 13 years ago.

The New Orleans native was in the process of moving back to town when Katrina struck and destroyed the things she had already moved, and then Hurricane Rita wiped out her job in Thibodaux soon after.

For weeks after Katrina hit, Brown wasn’t able to get into contact with her father, a cameraman at a local TV station.

Her parents lost their house in Katrina, and so did countless friends and family members.

While she has worked hard to move on after the devastation the 2005 hurricane season, the feelings of dread and helplessness returned as Hurricane Florence approached Brown’s current home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where she owns a bar called Zog’s and a Cajun food restaurant named Imbibe.

Without hesitation, Brown turned Zog’s and Imbibe into makeshift collection centers and began taking in as many supplies as possible.

In short order, Brown was overwhelmed by the donated goods and overcome with emotion at the generosity of the Chapel Hill community.

“Our community is so incredible,” Brown said as she struggled to hold back tears in a Facebook Live video she filmed while walking amid the donations.

Before the storm made landfall, Brown began handing out free bags of ice to anyone who stopped by her businesses, a kindness which was returned in the form of dozens of containers of donated water.

One set of donations in particular really got the tears flowing, but at the same time reaffirmed her dedication to helping those affected by Florence, Brown said.

“I think the diapers, I think that’s what started me tearing up, because I can’t imagine a situation where you’re holding your baby in your arms and you cannot change your baby, you cannot clean your baby,” she said. “But the only thing is that I can imagine it because I went through this already 13 years ago with Katrina. I watched my family and friends go through this, and this is why this makes so much sense to me to do this.”

Brown is still collecting supplies, which she will send to the Durham fruit warehouse and then straight to RDU airport.

About 20 pilots have signed up to fly single engine Cessnas down to the coast to deliver supplies, and there is a steady stream of vehicles bringing supplies to Durham and to the airport to be dispersed as needed.