Two Katrina evacuees who are now Houstonians
In late August 2005, disaster struck New Orleans, Louisiana, in the form of Hurricane Katrina. Thousands of residents fled as the huge storm bore down on the city, much of which is below sea level. When the levees failed, waters submerged about 80 percent of the city. More than 1,460 people died.
Katrina survivors found refuge elsewhere in Louisiana and in nearby states. An estimated 250,000, mostly African Americans, went to Houston, Texas, just 350 miles to the west. Houston’s population increased about 10 percent virtually overnight. City leaders organized a phenomenal effort to care for the evacuees. Few New Orleans residents returned home, having lost so much. Many put down roots in Texas’ biggest city.
The influx of New Orleans residents to Houston was not without controversy. Some Houstonians claimed that the crime rate skyrocketed in the weeks after Katrina, but close study later showed that evacuees had not caused a crime wave. What is certain is that the population increase put tremendous strain on Houston’s city services.
Another certainty is that the Katrina evacuees have transformed Houston’s culture, combining New Orleans fun with Houston energy. One evacuee observed that the New Orleanians show Houston how to have fun. In return, Houstonians teach them about economics and business. New restaurants, bookstores, and barbershops established by evacuees bear the flavor of New Orleans’ unique accent, food, and music. The displaced Louisianans cite better schools, less crime, and more security against future hurricane devastation as reasons to stay put in Houston. The Katrina evacuees may have left their hearts in the Crescent City, but they have their feet on the solid ground of the Bayou City. As Houston mayor Annise Parker said, “If they are here, they are Houstonians. … They are part of us.”
Image credit: © Dave Einsel/Getty Images
- Katrina Evacuees Shift Houston’s Identity
Meet some of the Katrina evacuees who have made Houston their home at this Web site.
(Source: CNN Online, August 12, 2011)
- Houston’s Noble Experiment
Read a detailed review of Houston’s immediate response to Hurricane Katrina.
(Source: City Journal, accessed August 22, 2011)
- Houston Holds Hope, Despair for Katrina Evacuees
This article evaluates both positive and negative aspects of Katrina evacuees’ lives in Houston, after the first two years.
(Source: NPR, August 27, 2007)
- Study: Katrina Crime Wave Nonexistent in Houston
An article in the Houston Chronicle discusses the effect, or lack thereof, of Katrina on crime in Houston.
(Source: Houston Chronicle, February 15, 2010)