Katrina evacuees in 2005 taught shelter lesson - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Katrina evacuees in 2005 taught shelter lesson

(Source: Theresa Schmidt/KPLC) (Source: Theresa Schmidt/KPLC)
LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

Thousands of evacuees from Texas have passed through our area and they're still coming. Some people are wondering why they come here and then get put on buses to head north.

Local emergency preparedness leaders say it's because of what happened back in 2005.  Hundreds if not thousands of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina were staying at the Lake Charles Civic Center. When Rita started heading toward Southwest Louisiana, they had to evacuate again. It was a nightmare as  Katrina evacuees traveled on buses to flee Hurricane Rita, which devastated the area.

Lesson learned, says Calcasieu OHSEP Director Dick Gremillion.

Now, they don't plan for longer term shelters here, from which evacuees might have to flee. Burton Coliseum is what they call a "comfort stop." It's a place they go to get a meal, maybe take a nap and get checked out before getting on another bus northward, to a shelter truly out of harm's way, no matter what happens in the Gulf of Mexico.  Dianna Van Horn is a Red Cross volunteer from Florida.

"We are a comfort stop basically, so they're being evacuated from Texas, they're being brought here on a bus.  They're seen by health officials from the state and they're checking to make sure there are no immediate health needs, making sure medications are filled, that sort of thing.  And then the Red Cross is providing blankets, food, water and comfort kits.  And then they're moving on to a safe run shelter further north," she said.

You can see the fear and sadness, sometimes desperation in the faces of some flood victims here.  It's not unusual to see someone sobbing after all the loss and trauma they've endured.

Evacuee Ishmael Jack is grateful to be safe:

"I just thank God that we're still alive and be able to talk about this.  Actually, I've lost my car.  I had to take my mom to the hospital during the time of the storm, while that was going on my dad was left behind at the hotel, where we went to get out of harm's way, and he wound up getting under water and they evacuated him to Alexandria," said Jack.

He knows where all his loved ones are and they're in contact. Jack is likely already on one of these many buses headed north, he's  been told Shreveport.   the red cross is helping here prefers money donations so victims so they can get exactly what they need,  but they partner with Abraham Tent and Catholic Charities to make use of other donated items.

Van Horn says the money is absolutely put to good use.

"I can tell you as a long time Red Cross volunteer that their money is closely guarded and is put to the purpose they want it put for.  IF they want it used in Lake Charles they indicate that and we leave it here. I donate my time and my money to the Red Cross because I believe in the organization.  We have close audit trails to make sure it goes where it's supposed to go," she said.

So, while the living conditions aren't the best, basic needs are met.

"They're getting off the buses and they're giving them MREs (Meals ready to eat), water, personal hygiene supplies, items.  Red Cross is doing a wonderful job," said Shirline Broussard, who evacuated from Orange.

If you want to donate to the Red Cross you can do so online.  In fact, Van Horn says you can even designate how you want it used.

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