Dear Reader,

A year ago today we woke up in a new city. Not so much a city we wanted, but a city that had been ripped apart and left for dead. Life-long residents, like myself, had no words or enough emotions to process what our eyes were seeing. Most of us knew what Hurricane Rita did to Lake Charles, and that was our only comparison for what we might expect after Laura came through.

Russ Conrad

Comparing Rita to Laura cannot even come close to what we saw as the sun rose. Buildings that we have grown up seeing, and visiting were not in crumbles. Trees that we used as landmarks to navigate around the city were laid out across the road split in half. No birds, no water, now power, and hardly any cell service. The ones that evacuated were trying to figure out how bad it was back at home. The ones at home were trying to figure out how to even get out of their driveways and homes. Rumors were circulating around about what was destroyed and what survived. Sadly, almost all of the rumors were true.

Russ Conrad

I spent all night hearing tornadoes, trees cracking, shingles hitting the side of my parents' house, and even heard the roof attempt to let loose in some spots. I remember hearing what I can only imagine was a tornado make its way down Common Street. I have never heard one before, but I have heard one be described. The description did no justice as to what it really sounds like.

Buddy Russ

I remember crying my eyes out driving around seeing my friends' homes in rubble. Driving over trees as I navigated out of the neighborhood. I remember feeling absolutely helpless trying to figure out what I could do to help. That is when we heard that the radio station had mostly survived and that we could actually get on the air. I could remember telling Mike how I had no idea how we could help, but we knew we had to get on the air. That's just what we did. Immediately our job became clear. We made ourselves the place for information and a bit of an escape with our random antics and jokes.

Still to this day, I get uneasy when the winds pick up and the rain blows a little sideways. It instantly takes me back to hearing the winds tear through our city as we sat in my parents' old house, hoping it would hold together. After a year, the anxiety I have during storms now has gotten better, but I don't think it will ever truly go away. What keeps me calm is knowing that in the aftermath of the storm, I saw the entire community of SWLA come together and help each other out. We helped each other in spite of losing all we had of our own. We helped each other from a simple bottle of water, a shoulder to cry on, cooking food, or just having a semi-cold beer after curfew. That is what keeps me calm. Knowing that no matter what happens, the community will rally together and help each other each and every time.

LOOK: The most expensive weather and climate disasters in recent decades

Stacker ranked the most expensive climate disasters by the billions since 1980 by the total cost of all damages, adjusted for inflation, based on 2021 data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The list starts with Hurricane Sally, which caused $7.3 billion in damages in 2020, and ends with a devastating 2005 hurricane that caused $170 billion in damage and killed at least 1,833 people. Keep reading to discover the 50 of the most expensive climate disasters in recent decades in the U.S.