Online UpdateArea Citizens Concerned for Relatives

The University Daily Staff Writer

As one of the most devastating hurricanes to ever hit the U.S. made its way through Louisiana and Mississippi Monday, some Lubbock residents were worried about their friends and families.


Maria Fontenot, a Texas Tech journalism professor, grew up in Louisiana and has many family members in the Big Easy.


"I have not slept very much in the last couple of days," she said. "I have been glued to the television watching weather reports."


Hurricane Katrina intensified into a Category 5 storm as it reached the heart of New Orleans Monday night.


The most deadly hurricane in the country's history took place in Galveston in 1900, killing 8,000 people. The Galveston hurricane only reached Category 4 status.


Fontenot said her brother Craig lives and works in downtown New Orleans.


"I really became worried when it reached 175 mph," Fontenot said.


Her brother took all the proper safety precautions, she said.


"He took almost all of his clothes and his college degrees and moved up to Lafayette, (La.)."


Katrina produced major flooding in New Orleans as water destroyed some city buildings and covered highway off ramps on Interstate 10.


"My brother had backup plans but even his backup plans were destroyed by the hurricane," Fontenot said.


Fontenot, whose parents and grandmother also live in Louisiana, said the storm is devastating for the whole family.


"I spend every Thanksgiving and Christmas at my grandmother's house," she said. "I am fearful that there will be no more holidays at her house."


Right now her grandmother is staying on a houseboat west of New Orleans, she said.


"I am pretty worried," Fontenot said. "But they are actually pretty safe. My uncle built the houseboat specifically to withstand storms."


Tuesday morning, wind took off part of the New Orleans Superdome, where approximately 10,000 people had gathered to wait out the storm. Mandatory evacuations in Louisiana and Mississippi have forced hundreds of thousands of people to find emergency shelter.


Zach Henson, a junior pre-law major from Broussard, La., said his father is a professional helicopter pilot in Louisiana.


"He has been busy transporting people away from the coast," Henson said. "I am concerned for my dad's safety."


Henson said many of his friends go to school in Louisiana.


"Fortunately, almost everyone had enough time to evacuate the area," Henson said.


Some Lubbock businesses like the Salvation Army are sending hurricane relief to South Texas.


Marvis Steele is the administrative resource manager for the Lubbock Salvation Army. Steele said an emergency canteen is being sent to Beaumont. An 18-wheeler will transport a portable kitchen, Steele said.


"We will do whatever we need to help with disaster relief," she said.


Most of the relief, she said, is preparing and serving food.


The Lubbock chapter of the Salvation Army is one of 20 across the state of Texas sending help to the southern portion of the state.


Jimmy Castillo is the assistant executive director of the Lubbock Red Cross. The Red Cross is sending out a tracking team to Orange and then eventually to Louisiana.


"The disaster relief includes first aid, assisting the National Guard, and providing food, clothing and shelter," he said.


Castillo said the exact amount of relief needed cannot yet be determined.


"We can't accurately say where or what needs to be done until the storm has passed and we can access the damage," Castillo said.


Many people in Texas are waiting to hear from friends and families in the path of Hurricane Katrina to see the amount of damage the storm has caused.


Francis Caliva is from San Antonio and has family in New Orleans. Caliva said everyone is safe and accounted for. The concern is for the family homes and businesses.


"We have a family business in New Orleans," he said. "It is a shoe store. You cannot take thousands of shoes with you."


Caliva, who grew up in New Orleans, said he has been dealing with hurricanes since 1947.


"If a hurricane as catastrophic as this one came in 1947, I probably wouldn't be alive," he said.