Have your searched your hard drive using your operating system for your catalog (.lrcat)? While we're at it what is your operating system? Since you don't mention LR 6 I'm assuming you have not upgraded yet. Is that true? You say your photos are missing but then you say they are on your external hard drive. Is it possible you accidentally started a new catalog? Try to open recent catalogs and see if your true catalog is there. Perhaps you did upgrade to LR 6 but answered "no" to the offer to upgrade your LR5 catalog. This would have created a new empty catalog. If this is so, then find your latest LR 5 catalog and open it with LR 6 and allow it to get upgraded.
I have spent hours on this today. I explicitly followed the instructions and tried other catalogs. The actual RAW files are on the hard drive, on a back up drive, and stored in two cloud services. I have the photos, but they are not showing in LR. I used Scott Kelby's manual in an effort to restore from a disaster, but no success. I get a message that says the lrcat file is not writetable and cannot be opened
I have spent hours on this today. I explicitly followed the instructions and tried other catalogs.
I don't know what this means or what you did but could we get an explicit yes or no answer to Joshua Cohen's question: Have your searched your hard drive using your operating system for your catalog (.lrcat)?
And could we get an explicit answer to his next question: While we're at it what is your operating system?
I get a message that says the lrcat file is not writetable and cannot be opened
So on the one hand, you claim your catalogs are missing "all catalogs, photos were missing", on the other hand you "tried other catalogs" and on the third hand the .lrcat file is not writeable and cannot be opened. Could you state exactly what steps you are following, and exactly what is the catalog's full name?
OS: Windows 8.1. I had Five catalogs in LR 5.7, but only use catalog 5. None of the catalogs are showing. I have been a CC member for two years and upgraded LR CC, and it opened without any photos. As I mentioned, I have the RAW files backed up. I most recently did a LR back up on April 15. The file I am trying to restore is titled Lightroom 5 Catalog.lrcat