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Richmond doctor moved here after Katrina, recalls storm

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–In the catastrophic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Frank Cerniglia moved his family from New Orleans to Richmond, hoping for a new start. 

Cerniglia, the parent of a special needs son, said his family was forced to evacuate New Orleans three times prior to Katrina. 

While Hurricane Katrina cost the Cerniglia family $60,000 dollars of damage to their home, it was seeing their family and friends lose everything, that became the tipping point.    

“Just imagine standing in your kitchen and looking in all four directions, a 15 or 20 mile radius, without seeing one habitable building,” said Cerniglia. “That’s what it was like in some areas.”

It was by coincidence, that a fellow pediatric urologist contacted Cerniglia after the storm, to offer him a job as a partner in his practice.

While seven years have passed since Katrina, Cerniglia said that the images of Hurricane Isaac, now pounding the Gulf Coast, are difficult to see.

“It’s eerie that it’s seven years to the day,” he said.

Cerniglia said he spent Wednesday texting his family back in New Orleans. They chose not evacuate, despite flooding and 100 mile-per-hour wind gusts.

“In some ways, this storm has more risks and can be more dangerous and worse than Katrina,” Cerniglia said.

George Cerniglia, Frank’s younger brother, said the worst of the storm hit New Orleans around two in the morning.  “It was scary because the whole house was shaking,” he said.

Cerniglia said the storm has brought back terrible memories of Katrina, although the family feels more confident in the new levee system, which was bolstered by $14-billion in federal repairs and improvements.

“It’s definitely an eerie feeling because you try to block out those feelings, everything you experienced back then,” said Cerniglia. “But they all come flooding back when something like this happens again.”

However the younger brother Cerniglia, a dentist in New Orleans, said Louisiana is home and it’s where he plans to stay.

As for his older brother, Frank…Virginia is now home.

“It’s a really nice place to live, we’re happy here,” he said.

He said his practice is flourishing and his family feels more at ease in a city that’s a little more removed from the lurking and devastating consequences of hurricanes.

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