Evacuees share their stories | AspenTimes.com

Evacuees share their stories

Three weeks ago they packed up their cars and left their homes because of an enormous hurricane and ended up in the Roaring Fork Valley.Now many of them find themselves riveted to television footage of a second hurricane heading toward their former neck of the woods, swirling ominously in the Gulf of Mexico. Here are three of their stories:Kay Kerrigan is a New Orleans resident who spent August in Aspen, renting a home in Mountain Valley. She watched Hurricane Katrina decimate the South from the safety of the Rocky Mountains while her family drove to Colorado to join her. Her husband, an attorney, relocated his office to Houston early this month and now finds himself evacuating Texas to stay ahead of Hurricane Rita.”Of all of my friends that evacuated, 90 percent of them went to Baton Rouge and Texas – mostly to Houston,” Kerrigan said. “Now the law firm where my husband had been sharing space after the first hurricane is packing up and moving to Dallas. My husband is en route to Aspen for the weekend to see what happens with the storm.”The Kerrigans’ home in New Orleans was close to St. Charles Avenue and was not affected by flooding. Kay said they’re waiting to see what happens with the rebuilding of the city before going back, and in the meantime she has raised $14,000 in the Roaring Fork Valley for the Red Cross through lemonade sales at the Aspen Saturday Market.Sunday night she is holding a fund-raiser at Cache Cache in Aspen, featuring a wine auction donated from locals that will benefit the Audobon Nature Institute in New Orleans, one of Kerrigan’s favorite organizations that manages and operates the New Orleans zoo and aquarium.”It’s a little hard to enjoy the paradise up here when I know what’s going on at home, and what’s happened to people and their homes,” she said. “I’m confident that rebuilding will happen, but I don’t know if people will come back to the city. All I can do is make the best of this and raise money for people who really got slammed.”Weldon and Darla Duhe, residents of Gulfport, Miss., came to stay with Weldon’s sister Tracy in Basalt, where they have found housing and work and plan on settling in the Roaring Fork Valley. But on Thursday afternoon, the couple was en route to Gulfport, driving to the South to see what they could salvage from their home before Hurricane Rita made landfall this weekend.Terry Duhe, Weldon and Tracy’s mother, answered the phone at the home in Basalt on Thursday, having moved to the area from Mandeville, La., two blocks from Lake Pontchartrain, the northern boarder of New Orleans. A tree went through her house, and she left while her older son set about repairing the damage.”As soon as my house is repaired, I’m going home,” Terry Duhe said. “I’m a little worried about Rita – it’s going to rain in my house again.”Mike Surcouf grew up in New Orleans, but lived in Aspen from 1995 to 2002 before moving back to the South with his wife-to-be, Lisa Rincon. Surcouf and Rincon married last August and were living in Crescent City working and putting themselves through school at the University of New Orleans when the hurricane struck. They left the city on Sunday morning, Sept. 4, and fear that their home has been enveloped by water.Their house was about a mile away from where one of the city’s levees broke, Surcouf said. While watching television coverage of the storm’s aftermath, he saw an aerial view of the city with a shot of a church near his house with water up to its roof. They quickly headed up to Aspen where a friend offered them free lodging in his home.”Our house has been wiped out completely and our neighborhood will probably have to be bulldozed, just like that,” Surcouf said. “I’m a history major and I’d like to go to law school, and Lisa is a sociology major who is studying to be a teacher. Maybe someday we’ll go back, but we have a lot of decisions to make now. We don’t know what we’ll do.”Both have found temporary employment in the Roaring Fork Valley and have applied for employee housing.”This all blows me away. My friends and I have talked about the levees, and how they’re just not built to withstand a Category 4 hurricane,” Surcouf said. “Everyone knew it was going to happen, but nobody did anything about it.”Surcouf thinks his hometown has been slowly dying for the last 20 to 30 years, with poverty and a failing school system, but he is optimistic that the storm will help the city restore itself.”It’s sad that it took this to clean up New Orleans, but I think we’re going to end up with a better city,” he said. “I really do.”Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com

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