Lessons learned from Katrina as Harvey victims arrive in Dallas

While it’s unclear how many evacuees are expected in North Texas, there is some idea of what will unfold during the next several months.

With the Dallas mega shelter at the convention center expected to quickly fill up once more evacuees arrive, officials are frantically looking for other places to open shelters that can hold thousands of people.

There are many lessons learned from what happened in Texas 12 years ago when Hurricane Katrina brought hundreds of thousands from New Orleans to Texas.

“We helped 28,000 people with shelter in Katrina,” explained Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. “We may help a significantly higher number now.”

Dr. Cullum Clark is the director of SMU’s economic research center. He believes Dallas could see more than 100,000 evacuees. He says what they learned from Katrina about how people evacuate is key to getting back on their feet.

“To move with a lot of other people whom they know, that’s what helps them get back on their feet,” he said. “We saw that after Katrina.”

While many may come to North Texas from Harvey, Clark expects most to go back to Southeast Texas.

“250,000 people from the New Orleans area landed in Houston in the end. About 25,000 to 45,000 of those people ended up staying long term,” Clark said. “I would think a larger percentage will ultimately go back because I think the Houston area has a greater capacity to rebuild itself than New Orleans had after Katrina.”

James Norton is a former Homeland Security Deputy Assistant Secretary under President George W. Bush. He worked Hurricane Katrina during and after the storm and says the destruction and displacement will upset our state’s economy.

“You’re looking anywhere from a 12 to a 48-month process here, I would say, of trying to bring this area back,” he said. “Critical services and bridge building and the type of construction that we're talking about. And there’s also other critical infrastructure like oil and gas that obviously play a huge role in that region.”

The state will need lots of federal financial help. The federal government sent more than $120 billion to help New Orleans come back after Katrina. It could be more than that to help Texas.

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