Katrina survivors making homes in valley | VailDaily.com

Katrina survivors making homes in valley

J.K. Perry
An American flag flies behind a destroyed home in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans Sunday, Aug. 27, 2006. The flag was flying at the site of a memorial to Hurricane Katrina. The destroyed home was several blocks from the Industrial Canal levee breach which flooded the area. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

EAGLE COUNTY – As New Orleans struggles to rebuild, some former residents are making a new life in the valley while watching the Big Easy repair itself.Few Katrina-ravaged survivors immigrated to the valley despite the efforts of Eagle County, the Vail Valley Salvation Army and individuals. Still, a portion of the Big Easy is among us one year after the destructive and deadly hurricane tore apart the Gulf Coast.Mary Sue Katz and husband Steve were in Vail – location of their second home – for a wedding when Katrina swept along the coast.Nine feet of brackish water from the breached 17th Street Levee filled Katz’s home, which had to be gutted because mold moved in, she said.What she and her husband plan to do – sell or move back – is not known.

“We’re sitting and trying to decide where we’re going with it,” she said. “We go round in circles. It is very frustrating. My desire is not to be there during hurricane season so I don’t have to evacuate.”The mood in New Orleans is frustrating, Katz said.Some pockets of the city remain intact or fixed, others still devastated. Getting services is aggravating, Katz said. Ordering carpet takes weeks if it happens at all and finding reputable repairmen is difficult, she said.And crime is rampant as gangs war and take refuge in abandoned homes, Katz said.The water stopped short of Dr. Keith Samuels’ suburban New Orleans home, which sustained little damage. The Samuels family had evacuated, and they spent several days in Houston before temporarily moving to Vail.

For months Samuels and his wife Lisa struggled with whether to sell their home. Katrina had changed New Orleans and Samuels didn’t want his two daughters to grow up there. “We decided for the kids and the lifestyle that it just seemed the city would not be a great place to raise kids in the foreseeable future,” Samuels said. “It was just the extensive damage in the area. I don’t know as far as the emotional environment (what) they’d grow up in in the next five years. We didn’t want to put them through it.”The Samuels sold their Louisiana home in March and now they live in Edwards.Samuels hasn’t returned to New Orleans since the sale. Based on news coming from New Orleans, Samuels said rebuilding will be a difficult.”This is not your average disaster,” he said. “This is a huge undertaking and it’s going to take years to get the city back in order.”

The city will return, but Samuels said he hopes crime and school disappear.”I hope it returns to the good things you hear (about),” he said. “I hope the elements that make the city unique will return.”Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 748-2928 or jkperry@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado

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