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Displaced By Katrina, Then Harvey. He Carries On With 'A Little Bit Of Introspection'


2017 was the most expensive year in history for damage caused by hurricanes. This week, we've been checking back in with some of the people who lived through those storms.


Just after Hurricane Harvey struck Texas in August, we heard from Stephen Lipp. His house in Katy, Texas, was badly damaged in the storm.


STEPHEN LIPP: When the water rose up, yeah, it was coming through the doors, but it was coming through everywhere - everywhere. So every point in the house was getting water into it. And there was no getting the water out anymore.

SHAPIRO: And this is the second time this has happened to the Lipp family. In 2005, the Lipps lived in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina destroyed that home. After that, they moved to the suburbs of Houston.

MARTIN: As the holidays approach, Lipp reflects on living through not one, but two damaging hurricanes.

LIPP: I have some experience with this having gone through this same exercise before with Katrina, so it didn't come as a complete shock. We were prepared. But nonetheless, you feel this ghastly feeling of loss. Everything around you is dead, and you now have to pick up the pieces.

SHAPIRO: Many of the houses in Lipp's neighborhood were completely demolished. But the Lipps got off a little easier. They've had to completely gut the house. They ripped out the drywall, the carpeting, the flooring. They will be able to live in their house again at some point.

LIPP: I guess in some sense we were lucky. But it honestly didn't feel like lucky at the time. We were at that point dealing with the first of the three H's, as I like to put it. We were feeling completely hapless. And then you feel helpless. And then ultimately, you feel hopeless. And so the haplessness starts things, and then you sort of feel helpless that things are spiraling out of control and you have no way to fix these things, and then ultimately, it descends into hopelessness. And then you have to just pull yourself out of that abyss that you've dug for yourself. So I don't know. That's kind of a credo I've been working with.

MARTIN: Lipp and his wife are leaning on family for help right now. They're staying with his sister while they fix up their house.

LIPP: Not that I begrudge my sister's magnanimity here, but she's been putting out by me for longer than she should be. And I feel bad for doing that. After Katrina, she was the one who housed me for the month and a half after that storm. So I feel as if all I do is stomp all over my sister. So it's something I'm trying to get away from.

SHAPIRO: The Lipps hope to be back in their own home in a few months, but they'll definitely be with his sister for the holidays.

LIPP: For us, the constant needs of the rebuilding process are taking away from anything we can do for the Christmas season. So as of yet there's no gifts, even ideas of gifts out there. We're just trying to paddle our way through this rebuilding process because otherwise we don't get a house. And so that's been our focus.

MARTIN: But with Katrina, and now Harvey, Lipp has learned how to get back on his feet after a storm. And he wants to share what he's learned with others, even if that means he has to follow his own advice.

LIPP: People will tell you that they're just possessions. They're just tangible things. They're - the intangibles aren't lost with the storm. But honestly, there's a lot of intangibles that get lost with the storm, and don't trivialize those things. It's important to get a grip on what has happened to your life with the storm. A little bit of introspection, provided it doesn't drag you down into the dumps, is necessary in order to pull your way through this trouble.

SHAPIRO: Stephen Lipp is from Katy, Texas, by way of New Orleans, La. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.