The Lubbock Centennial 1909-2009 - presented by The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
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New Orleans Katrina evacuee Charles Harris keeps his possessions in a trash bag by his bed in and airplane hanger-turned-relief center at Reese Technology Center. Lubbock took in hundreds of hurricane Katrina and Rita evacuees.

Tired, hungry Katrina evacuees set down in city

2005 Some arrived dragging suitcases behind them. Others didn't have a shirt to wear.

Most looked tired, but all were likely glad to be standing on dry ground and not far from warm food and a bed.

Nearly a week after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, about 400 New Orleans, La., evacuees touched down Sunday in Lubbock.

Three jetliners carried the bedraggled passengers from Louis Armstrong Airport to Lubbock, and more planeloads are expected.

"They're just relieved," said local American Red Cross Chairman Greg Bruce. "They were just excited to be somewhere where they're going to get some rest, some food, some clean clothes."

One boy dragged a stuffed bear as he crossed the tarmac at the Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport.

One little girl held a police officer's hand as she made her way from the plane to a bus that would take her and her fellow evacuees to the Reese Technology Center, where they will likely stay for several days or weeks.

In the wake of Katrina, about 90,000 New Orleans residents, about one-fifth of the city's total population, have been sent to shelters across Texas. About 1,000 are expected in Lubbock.

Mayor Marc McDougal said planes were taking off from New Orleans without knowing their destination until they were in the air.

The first plane arrived with only 30 minutes' notice, while a plane scheduled to land at 2:30 p.m. never made it. Two of the three planes arrived unscheduled.

"In New Orleans, there is very little, if any, communications," McDougal said. He learned the planes were coming when air traffic controllers at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport called to let him know.

Lubbock began making arrangements Thursday to handle up to 250 evacuees, but that number swelled to 1,000 on Friday.

About 600 will be housed in a dormitory and an air-conditioned hangar at Reese, while Lubbock Municipal Coliseum is ready to house another 400 if needed.

Most evacuees will be sleeping on cots or air mattresses, but those at Reese have access to a cafeteria, theater and gymnasium.

Police Chief Claude Jones said the pilot of the third plane told him Lubbock's operation was the most efficient and thorough of any he had seen while ferrying evacuees.

Once at Reese, the displaced New Orleans residents were checked in, sent through a medical check and given food. McDougal said the city will use federal Housing and Urban Development funds to find permanent homes for the evacuees hopefully within a few days.

The A-J Remembers The Most Important People in Lubbock's History
 
 


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