Brad Kemp / Lafayette Daily Advertiser
Hurricane Katrina evacuee Savonda Jones, left, sorts clothes Friday at Progressive Baptist Church in Lafayette La.
By Anchor
NBC News
updated 9/23/2005 4:47:27 PM ET 2005-09-23T20:47:27

The city of Lafayette has become a surreal outpost as two groups of displaced people collide in central Louisiana — New Orleansians displaced by Katrina and Texans fleeing Rita.

NBC News' Carl Quintanilla reports on how people are chugging along, thanks in part to gas stations and the Piggly Wiggly grocery store staying open, despite their feeling of "here it comes all over again."

Can you describe the scene there at the moment?
Lafayette is in central Louisiana, so there are two dynamics going on at the same time.

One, a lot of people from New Orleans, whose homes were destroyed in Katrina, have come out here and they have been here for the last three weeks. At the same time, there are a lot of people from Texas who thought that the storm was coming there and came east to get out of the path.

So, these two strange populations of evacuees have sort of collided in this area and they have taken up all of the hotel rooms.

That’s one reason why we’ve seen all of trouble on the highways, because all of the hotel rooms are booked, much more so than there would be during an ordinary hurricane evacuation.

What kind of preparations are those two groups making ahead of the storm?
The New Orleans people have been pretty well ensconced for three weeks at these hotels. Everybody knows everybody, everybody knows each others stories.

Of course, they can’t go back to New Orleans — since they are not allowed back in the city and because they really don’t have anything to go back to. So, they have just been trying to create a home away from home.

The Texas evacuees have a little bit of a disadvantage, because in a lot of cases they are still on the highway and they are having to travel a lot farther to find available hotels. And as they left Texas, the storm has shifted. Now, in some cases, they are headed into the projected path, which is something a lot of them didn’t count on.

Is there a sense of hurricane fatigue?
I would say that there is a sense of disbelief that Mother Nature could do this to them not once, but twice.

I wouldn’t say that there is any anger. There may still be some lingering anger over FEMA, but we haven’t heard a lot of that.

I think that there is a sense of, not despair, but just sort of a sense of resignation.

Because, really what choices do they have? They really have no choice, because they can’t go back  to their house and they can’t just keep running. As one woman said, “I can’t just keep running – from city, to city, to city.”

So, that’s one reason why there are actually a lot of people in Lafayette today. There are still a lot of people walking around, because a lot of them have no other choice but to sit somewhere and ride it out.

Is there a sense of fear?  
The good thing is that the gas stations have been open all day today. The Piggly Wiggly grocery store has been open. So people have been able to stock-up, assuming they have a place to go.

So, that’s the good thing — unlike a lot of small towns in Texas that are already like ghost towns where there is nothing. So that is sort of the bright spot, that there is still gasoline and there are still supplies.

There is probably a sense that after Katrina, nothing could be that bad.

A lot of the New Orleansians say that it wasn’t the hurricane that got us, but the flooding. So, assuming that’s not going to happen this time, they feel like they can probably get through this.

Is there any difference in terms of general preparations for this storm in the wake of Katrina?
The one thing people have mentioned, which was really interesting, was that for a lot of these people, they were preparing for this just three weeks ago. 

So, they have been sitting out here on the sidewalk, under the awning in front of the hotel, watching the rain and remembering the feeling they had just three weeks ago, when they were getting ready for the rain in New Orleans.

They say, that’s really eerie, remembering that feeling of ‘"oh, here it comes," and having gone through everything they went through, and now feeling that same sense of "here it comes all over again." They say it just makes your head spin.

Carl Quintanilla is an NBC News Correspondent. 


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