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Katrina, Rita victims settle in elsewhere

Date: 10/31/2005

Katrina, Rita victims settle in elsewhere
By Haya El Nasser and Paul Overberg, USA TODAY
Almost 300,000 households displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita the size of a large city have resettled at least permanently enough to change their address for mail delivery.
They represent about one in five of the 1.6 million households that could not get mail for a time in areas affected by Katrina and Rita. Data from the U.S. Postal Service give the first substantial look at where evacuees are settling. A USA TODAY analysis of change-of-address data filed through Oct. 13 shows:

Many are staying close to home. More than 38,000 people changed their address to Baton Rouge, almost 30,000 to Houston. An additional 40,000 moved to communities just outside metropolitan New Orleans.

"These are the most reluctant migrants we've had in our history," says William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution think tank. "They've never even contemplated moving to the next neighborhood."

Almost 300,000 households uprooted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have filed change-of-address forms for mail delivery. Top destinations:
Destination Households
Baton Rouge 38,220
Houston 29,252
Western New Orleans suburbs 19,767
Eastern Louisiana 18,517
Lafayette, La. 17,678
Biloxi-Gulfport-Pascagoula, Miss. 13,845
Dallas 11,703
Atlanta 10,687
Mobile, Ala. 9,643
Source: Analysis of U.S. Postal Service data by Paul Overberg

About 80% of Louisiana's residents in 2000 were natives of the state.

Many who moved out of state went to Southern cities such as Dallas, Atlanta, San Antonio, Little Rock, Memphis and Nashville.

"There's two kinds of places people are going to," Frey says. "One are the makeshift areas, hotels. Then there are the places where people have friends and families who are going to put them up."

Shavonne Woods, 22, whose lakefront New Orleans home was "messed up" by Katrina, moved to Grand Prairie, Texas, to stay with an aunt and uncle before the hurricane hit. She has been there since but didn't change her address until two weeks ago. She plans to return to New Orleans, where she worked as a cashier at a parking garage, but she doesn't know when.

"These people are in a holding pattern both physically and psychologically," Frey says. "They're not yet in a position to even come to grips with where their long-term residences are going to be."

Fewer moved farther away. Cities with more than 400 households of evacuees include Las Vegas, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Washington and West Palm Beach, Fla.

"The Gulf Coast absorbed most of the change" from the hurricane evacuees, says Robert Lang, director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech. "The bookend big cities of Dallas and Atlanta took the next tier."