» Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina sur­vivors re­call warm wel­come in Austin.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Matthew Odam modam@statesman.com Con­tact Matthew Odam at 512-912-5986. Twit­ter: @odam

Twelve years after Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina forced Chris Savit­tiere to evac­u­ate from New Or­leans and even­tu­ally build a new life in Austin, he watches the peo­ple of Hous­ton and sur­round­ing ar­eas face streets that have turned into rivers and the prospect of an un­cer­tain fu­ture.

“It’s kind of like deja vu, ex­cept we’re not di­rectly in­volved in it,” Savit­tiere said.

Not di­rectly, but cer­tainly in­di­rectly. Savit­tiere’s brother, David, who also evac­u­ated from New Or­leans around the time of Ka­t­rina, is trapped in his house in the community of Cy­press in North­west Hous­ton. David Savit­tiere’s house has thus far been spared, but much of his neigh­bor­hood is un­der­wa­ter.

Chris Savit­tiere, a de­signer and tai­lor who moved to Austin a few months after Ka­t­rina, fol­low­ing a brief de­tour to Seat­tle, knows what it takes to build a new life in an un­known city. But, right now, he says the peo­ple of Hous­ton and other trau­ma­tized ar­eas are still likely in a state of shock, deal­ing with ba­sic needs of per­sonal sur­vival and safety. The work of putting the pieces back to­gether is still shrouded some­where in the mid­dle dis­tance.

“I don’t think that the im­pact has still fully hit,” Savit­tiere said. “The sad part and the hard part is what hap­pens a week from now when the re­al­ity starts to sit in that you can’t go back. The dis­place­ment is what re­ally sad­dens me for what is go­ing on in Hous­ton right now. The hard work comes when the sun comes out and you have to fig­ure out what to do next.”

Chris­tine Mo­line and her hus­band, Ter­rence, also evac­u­ated to Austin from New Or­leans dur­ing Ka­t­rina, and she said she thinks ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy over the past 12 years will sig­nif­i­cantly help vic­tims of the Texas floods. When she and Ter­rence fled New Or­leans, they could email friends and fam­ily, but when they ar­rived in Texas, they still had to search for non­prof­its and make phone calls. The ex­plo­sion of so­cial me­dia al­lows more im­me­di­ate ac­cess to a wealth of re­sources.

But Chris­tine Mo­line, who runs man­age­ment con­sul­tancy Dash­board Pri­or­i­ties, ad­vises peo­ple to not rely solely on tech­nol­ogy as they gather in­for­ma­tion and plan fu­ture steps. She rec­om­mends they keep a note­book and log con­ver­sa­tions with the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency and in­sur­ance com­pa­nies.

“That will be in­valu­able,” Mo­line said.

The Mo­lines had just closed on their first house in New Or­leans the week be­fore Ka­t­rina, so she said she was al­ready in busi­ness mode by the time the storm ar­rived. She leaned into that once ar­riv­ing in Austin.

“I worked through that shock to re­build al­most im­me­di­ately,” said Chris­tine Mo­line, who added that it is im­por­tant that storm vic­tims try to keep things in per­spec­tive. “Ev­ery­thing that is ma­te­rial can be re­placed. If you got out with your life, then ev­ery­thing else can be re­placed. It may be a hard les­son, es­pe­cially if you are in shock.”

While each story of es­cape, sur­vival and re­build­ing looks dif­fer­ent, the Mo­lines and Chris Savit­tiere have a com­mon­al­ity: the warm wel­come and sup­port they re­ceived after ar­riv­ing in Austin.

Savit­tiere said the em­pa­thy and help of community mem­bers are para­mount in giv­ing the dis­placed solid ground from which to start anew.

“Find those peo­ple who need help,” he said. “Reach out to them. Ev­ery bit of em­pa­thy and un­der­stand­ing you can of­fer goes a long way to help­ing peo­ple re­build their lives. Any­thing you can do to help some­one in your community who is fac­ing that, it can go a lot far­ther than you think.”

Still, it’s hard for him to give ad­vice to the newly stranded, who are likely over­whelmed and scared.

“Stay close to your fam­ily. Stay close to your friends,” Savit­tiere said. “I would say be pa­tient. I would say work hard. I don’t know, man. What ad­vice do you give to some­one who’s lost ev­ery­thing? You have to start all the way over.”

Mo­line echoes Savit­tiere’s call for em­pa­thy and sup­port from Aus­tinites and those who will shel­ter and pos­si­bly serve as new neigh­bors for many af­fected by the floods.

“Think about what you would need and what you would want if you were in the same po­si­tion,” Mo­line said. “It’s easy to text money to a non­profit and then pull the cov­ers over your­self and go back to sleep.”

While each story of es­cape, sur­vival and re­build­ing looks dif­fer­ent, the Mo­lines and Chris Savit­tiere have a com­mon­al­ity: the warm wel­come and sup­port they re­ceived after ar­riv­ing in Austin.

JAY JANNER / AMER­I­CAN-STATESMAN

Ter­rence and Chris­tine Mo­line, re­lax­ing Thurs­day at Ruby’s BBQ, evac­u­ated to Austin from New Or­leans dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina. While Chris­tine said ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy over the past 12 years will sig­nif­i­cantly help flood vic­tims, she urges them to keep a note­book and log con­ver­sa­tions with FEMA and in­sur­ance com­pa­nies.

Chris Savit­tiere urges sur­vivors to re­main pa­tient.

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