As bad as it got ... it could always be worse.

Bill and Deborah Armington - two of Astoria's newest citizens - can tell you all about the "worse."

The couple - who just closed the deal on their new Astoria home last Friday - went through Hurricane Katrina three years ago, a tragedy that not only demolished homes along the Gulf Coast, but ripped apart entire communities.

After moving from New Orleans to San Antonio, Texas, the couple recently moved a third time, bringing them to Astoria.

This week's devastating storm, needless to say, brought back memories. And many of those memories were not pleasant.

"After Katrina, the power was off for some 30 days, and in some places it's still off," said Armington, who worked as a neuro-radiologist at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans, where the couple resided.

"In Katrina I was a participant. I was in the hospital to help maintain the health and subsequent evacuation of 2,200 people. And I had no idea of what was going on around us. I was completely cut off. We didn't hear any national news, we had no power or anything."

His wife was 50 miles away during Katrina, and feared the worst. What news she did receive was filled with "looting and urban chaos, and she thought I was in the middle of it," Armington said.

The Armingtons had a home in the French Quarter, and a farm north of New Orleans.

Both properties escaped any serious damage, but the emotional damages to the cities and communities were irreparable.

"There was property damage all around, but the house was fine," Deborah Armington said. "But the French Quarter was a very close-knit group of people, and much of it was basically deposited in San Antonio. We still mourn the loss of all the friendships and ties that we had."

Now for the better.

"This community has come together in a way that New Orleans didn't," she said. "We're so glad to see the community come together for this. We lost our community in Katrina, but we're not going to lose it here. It's an incredible thing to see."

An equally amazing event to witness is a hurricane, up close and personal. The Armington's have already seen more than your average storm chaser.

"We were staying at our farm before Katrina hit, and we were aware that a very large hurricane was coming," Armington said. "It was Sunday, and the mayor had just called for an evacuation of the city, and I thought, 'I'd better go in to the hospital and help out.'

"So I drove across the 26-mile long causeway (over Lake Pontchartrain), and I was about the only car going into New Orleans. It was bumper-to-bumper heading out.

"I went to our house in the French Quarter and battened down the hatches, went to work at the hospital, and didn't leave until I was taken off the roof of the hospital the next Friday (five days)."

The wind intensity of this week's storm through the Pacific Northwest, "was, frankly, a bit higher than Katrina at times," Armington said. "The devastating thing with Katrina was the flooding, which began after the storm had completely stopped.

"Here, we had a very intense storm that went on for a long period of time, but when it was done, it was done, and left behind the devastation."

And Clatsop County has come together in a way that New Orleans did not.

Armington was named as one of the three emergency operation center representatives from Columbia Memorial Hospital, "so I had a chance to see how the various layers of the government and private sector interacted to help during the peak of the storm and afterwards," he said.

"Logistically, it's easier in Astoria, but frankly the EOC was pulling everything together for the entire county. So the people numbers are smaller (than New Orleans), but geographically it's a larger area."

Armington was also impressed with the cooperation between different agencies, "how each level interacted with one another, and how focused they were," he said. "At the EOC meetings, there didn't seem to be any egos. There were no personalities. It was focused sharing of information in a quick time frame."

Deborah Armington added, "they were also able to take care of patients here, as opposed to New Orleans, where they were just trying to survive."

Hospitals in New Orleans were basically offering "a bare-bones Third World medicine," Armington said. "We had no air conditioning, it was 105 degrees, and we had patients on cots in the hallway."

There were obviously less patients to deal with in Astoria, but Columbia Memorial still had plenty of organization.

From 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday morning, 61 treatments had been done at the dialysis center, Armington said.

The emotional healing in Clatsop County "is going to be a lot easier than it was after Katrina," he said. "Part of it is that everybody is still here. People have not been displaced, and the lines of communication can really be strengthened.

"Everybody scattered from New Orleans, and when they filtered back in, they were shell-shocked because of what they'd been through. It was a very different city.

"Everybody went through Katrina separately, and came back separately. Here, everybody went through it together, and now we can recover together."

And now, the Armington's feel right at home in their new town.

"We yearned for that feeling we had in the French Quarter community, and that's what we found here in Astoria," Armington said. "We feel like the community has embraced us. We feel very welcome and nurtured here."