ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — Hurricane Ida turned an Orchard Park woman’s life upside down when it slammed into Louisiana last week.
Heather Lopez is originally from Orchard Park but has lived in New Orleans for several years. She never thought she’d have to leave so abruptly but Hurricane Ida had other plans.
“It was Sunday morning about 9 a.m. and I said, ‘oh lord it really looks like its coming here, I don’t wanna be here for another Katrina.’ So I said, ‘let me get my kids,'” Lopez said.
Lopez, her seven and seventeen-year-olds, their dog, and a guinea pig packed into the car to head for Tallahassee; what should’ve been a six-hour drive.
“It was just bumper-to-bumper traffic from NOLA to Tallahassee it took me 15 hours to get from something that should’ve taken me six hours,” she said. “It was scary, people were driving on the shoulder of the road like it was just another lane.”
Finally, the family made it to Tallahassee which presented new financial challenges.
“They were price gauging big time so I depleted almost all my funds on the hotel.”
Lopez is a nanny for a family in New Orleans. This week, she got a call from her boss telling her the family wouldn’t be returning to the area, leaving her out of a job. To make matters worse, the inside of her apartment was destroyed by the storm.
“I basically just lost everything I know in New Orleans, I basically just lost my way of life,” she said. “I’m not going back to get my stuff when I say starting over, I have to start over.”
For Lopez, starting over means returning home to Orchard Park. She said her half-brother still lives in Western New York and she’s just ready to start building a new life.
“I just need to get up there and start living because New Orleans is not someplace I can go back to.”
She said she’ll look for a nanny position again, but for now, she just needs to start making money to support her kids again.
“When I get there I’ll take what I can get just to get my foot in the door and start living again.”
Lopez will head to Ohio, where her mother lives, on Thursday. She’ll start the journey home to Buffalo on Friday.