Friday, September 23

Lake Charles and New Orleans, Two of a kind

MINDEN -- Southwest Louisiana residents are learning the finer points of emergency sheltering with assistance from New Orleans area hurricane evacuees.
Almost 50 people have trickled into a brand new recreation facility for safety and shelter from Hurricane Rita. They are residents of Lake Charles, Sulphur, New Orleans and Texas.
Officials with the Minden Recreation Department provided cots, blankets, warm food and many other personal items for the evacuees.
Residents who spoke to the American Press said they were pleased with the accommodations.
"I'm thinking of this as a little vacation. This is a real nice spot," Loretta Arcenaux of Lake Charles said.
Dustin Meeks lives in a house off Country Club Road. He and his family considered staying home but decided to listen to emergency officials and leave ahead of the storm.
"We left because of the mandatory evacuation. I think we were going to leave anyway," Meeks said.
Meeks traveled with six other people to Opelousas before driving north to the shelter on Interstate 49.
Molly Eason, a member of Meeks travel group, found the shelter comfortable.
"I'm almost in no hurry to go home," she said. "It is so good to be safe. The people are real nice here, they are real good to us."
What is a new experience for Lake Area residents is old hat now for Hurricane Katrina evacuees from southeast Louisiana. Many of them have lived on the road for a month now.
"My family started in Shreveport with Katrina, then moved to Oakdale. Now we are in Minden. We haven't been home in four weeks," Brian Etienne of Plaquemines Parish said.
Etienne was laying down on his cot resting Friday afternoon. His wife walked around talking to other evacuees and their son played with other youth.
"Home right now is anywhere for us. The good thing is that the people in charge of all the shelters we've been at have be so responsive to our needs. They don't look at color. This is a real godly situation," he said.
Edwin Orellana of Pasadena, Texas, traveled two days before ending up sleeping with his wife and daughter at a gas station located near U.S. Interstate 20. He was tired and upset about the situation that he and millions of other drivers found themselves in when evacuation efforts started in the Houston area.
"People were fighting for gas in Texas. People broke down in their cars. There was no gas in Kemah, Baytown, Houston or anywhere. This is bad. I feel scared," Orellana said.
Loretta Arceneaux said a stronger bond is being developed between Lake Area evacuees and their counterparts from the New Orleans area.
"We are already here with people who've been through it to help us. God mingled us and it is helping," she said.
Eric Cormier
Staff Writer

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