Many Hurricane Katrina Evacuees Still Living In Upstate

American Red Cross helped more than 150 Katrina evacuees shelter in Greenville right after the storm.

Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Because of it, thousands of people were evacuated, including many to the Upstate.

Wendy Watson never thought she’d call Anderson, South Carolina home.

If Katrina wouldn’t have hit, I would not be living anywhere else,” said Watson.

Ten years ago, she was living in Louisiana just outside of New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore, causing record damage and destruction and leaving many people struggling to survive the aftermath.

Watson and her then 2 year old son evacuated, eventually ending up in South Carolina near Clemson.

“I had heard of South Carolina but Clemson had never even, I didn’t even know what Clemson was actually which is kind of crazy,” said Watson.

Watson says she was lucky to have a friend here to stay with at first.

More than 150 other evacuees did not. And for more than four weeks, they lived at the Palmetto Expo Center in Greenville, now called the TD Convention Center.

“We even had a bank that was part of the center,” said Ann Wright, Executive Director of the Red Cross’s Upstate Chapter. “Literally we were running a small city within the Palmetto Expo Center.”

Wright says she will never forget their arrival.

“The people that were getting off that plane literally had the clothes on their back. They had been plucked off of roof tops,” said Wright. “They had no idea even where they were. They were asking us, where are we? And we were able to tell them you’re in Greenville, South Carolina and we’re here and we’re gonna help you.”

Wright says very few of them went back to New Orleans.

Many stayed in the Upstate, leaving everything and everyone they knew behind.

Watson says she now loves living here but will always miss her first home.

“I’ve left all my family, all my friends, but opportunity and circumstance kind of, we stayed here,” said Watson.

Wright says the storm’s anniversary is also a good reminder for everyone to get prepared for the hurricane season we’re in now.

You can download the American Red Cross Emergency app for free to help you plan for a disaster.

The Red Cross also has a Shelter Finder app to tell you where shelters are open during a storm.

For more information on preparing for a hurricane, click here.


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