A Journey Through Hell

One Storm Survivor Videotaped His Experience

In the tiny coastal town of Bay St. Louis, Andrew McDonald documented his journey to hell and back.

As CBS News correspondent Jim Acosta reports for 48 Hours, McDonald defied the mandatory evacuation order, videotaping his childhood community in perhaps its final hours.

Of the rolling shots of waterfront houses, empty yards, and no people, McDonald says, "It's a ghost-town of grandiose homes awaiting a deadly hurricane."

He had faith in his mother's old house. The 100-year-old home survived Hurricane Camille in '69 and he was sure it could withstand Katrina, too. He hunkered down with his mother, his wife Deniz, and his camera.

As Sunday night fell, the hurricane hit. The winds whipped, the trees shook and the electricity went out.

His mom's 100-year-old house didn't feel so strong after all.

"I did fear for my life, " said Deniz. "It's an old house."

Even Andrew admitted he was a bit anxious. "Maybe I had left us here at a point where we couldn't leave, where it would be too dangerous," he said.

Outside, it was chaos – threatening and deadly. Andrew continued shooting.

"I happened upon this scene of several people, climbing out of this ocean of debris," he said. He saw a family, fighting for their lives. They were huddling down from the wind, going into a boat. There were five of them and a dog.

Andrew put down his camera and tried to save them. "I became obsessed with helping them," he said. "I was yelling at them; it just looked very violent."

But he couldn't reach the desperate family; the debris in the water made swimming towards their boat impossible. They disappeared.

Their house across the street was completely submerged. There is no house strong enough, no tree tall enough to withstand the wrath of the angry storm.

Andrew's neighborhood was flattened by almost 25 feet of water. It was an amazing sight, an amazing event. Within an hour, the landscape had just utterly transformed. Every house was destroyed, except one: Andrew's childhood home stood among the ruins.

"We were alive," Andrew said. "It was a sense of elation, that the thing had passed and we had made it." The old house and Andrew's mother survived another hurricane.

Acosta found the family Andrew had tried to save, the Schulzes. Emily Schulz was working as a nurse at the local hospital when water flooded her family's home.

"My husband said the back end of the house came off," she said. "He said get prepared. My 10-year-old had a life jacket on and they were blowing up air mattresses. And my mother was sitting in a recliner and she said, 'I'm too old for this, I don't want to do this,' and she put her head down and said, 'Ya'll go.' And they watched the roof collapse. They swam out. They got out just in the nick of time."

Emily's mother was lost to the flood. Everyone who made it to the boat survived

Today, the tape that Andrew shot has become a part of history, a living document of a storm so angry, so powerful, that in its wake, those who survived it and those trying to deal with it remained stunned by her power .