Here’s what happened.
Thousands of residents in metro New Orleans and coastal regions of south Louisiana know the drill. As soon as weather projections confirm that a tropical cyclone’s payload of wind, rain, and/or tidal surges will affect them, they pack up and head for higher ground. Many will seek lodging in other southern states, including Georgia.
So what happened during the days of August 27-29, 2005, was typical. Metro Atlanta’s population spiked as evacuees from Hurricane Katrina entered the area. But what happened after that was not. Broad sections of the New Orleans area had flooded; many parts stayed under water for weeks. Thousands of Gulf Coast residents were compelled to realize that metro Atlanta might have to become their permanent home.
Here’s why it mattered then.
After Katrina made its second USA landfall in Louisiana, the storm headed north. Its outer bands grazed western Georgia on August 30, 2005, spawning heavy rains and tornadoes. Two of the hurricane’s 1,800 overall deaths were in Georgia.
Despite light casualties, Katrina’s other effects on the Atlanta area were swift and far-reaching. Vacancies in area hotels and motels became extremely hard to find. Slowdowns of gasoline production in Gulf Coast area refineries sparked a supply panic. For several weeks afterward, local drivers faced long lines and frustrating shortages at area service stations.
Here’s why it matters now.
Family and business connections between New Orleans and Atlanta have been strong since the time of the Civil War. Only Houston, Dallas, and Baton Rouge had more Hurricane Katrina evacuees than Atlanta. According to records compiled by the city, at least 100,000 people evacuated to Atlanta.
Ties between the two cities are particularly strong among African Americans. Thousands of black evacuees from New Orleans waited out the storm with relatives or host families in the Atlanta area. Many of them had been part of the middle class in New Orleans (professionals, trade workers, government employees, and entrepreneurs). Deciding to stay and build new lives in the Atlanta area was logical but emotionally wrenching.
Here’s the latest update . . .
Atlanta made statistical history during 2007; its metro population surpassed 5 million. It had taken only six years to eclipse the previous milestone of 4 million people. Census data suggests that lots of that growth came from Katrina evacuees who stayed.
Katrina will never again be the name of a hurricane. Lots of stories have been published about Katrina evacuees building new lives in Atlanta. But many of these new Georgians retain strong connections and loyalties to the Crescent City, as illustrated by the sea of Black and Gold in the Georgia Dome that gets bigger each time the National Football League (NFL) Falcons play the Saints.
. . . And here’s an interesting fact!
Georgia was spared the carnage that has been wrought by Hurricane Irene along the USA’s east coast. But Atlanta was affected indirectly. Official dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial, scheduled for August 28, 2011, has been postponed.