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Charlotte opened its heart to Hurricane Katrina evacuees

Lucius and Martine Johnson in their new New Orleans-themed Charlotte restaurant now being outfitted.
Lucius and Martine Johnson in their new New Orleans-themed Charlotte restaurant now being outfitted. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

As Hurricane Katrina drove thousands away from the Gulf Coast in August 2005, the Charlotte region became one of many way stations for evacuees whose lives had been overturned.

Carolinians everywhere were ready to help.

More than 800 evacuees began rebuilding their lives in Charlotte. Half moved into a shelter at the Charlotte Coliseum on Tyvola Road, as officials looked for apartments and homes to give them some feeling of normalcy. Residents, civic groups, nonprofits and churches donated money, furnishings, clothing and housing.

Landlords waived first-month’s rent, deposits and other fees. Thousands from the Carolinas traveled to the wreckage to help in the recovery. Some still return each year to help with the rebuilding.

Saturday, 10 years after Katrina made landfall, the Observer looks at the people – and animals – forever marked by what people in the Gulf Coast call “The Storm.”

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