When Tucson took in hurricane evacuees

Evacuees from Hurricane Katrina stayed in TCC

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Hurricanes have sent evacuees from the Gulf Coast all the way to the Sonoran Desert.

Hurricane Katrina led to evacuees coming to Tucson---and some of them decided to stay.

As Texans watch storm water that simply does not go down, Joseph Smith is here in the desert remembering how he lived the same thing.

His home was New Orleans. His storm was Katrina.

"The water wasn't moving.  Every day I was getting up and I was looking out the window and the water was setting at the same spot."

And that was 15 or 20 days after Katrina hit.  

When a boat came through Joseph Smith got on it.  Soon he was on a planeload of evacuees.  He thinks he was sleeping when the flight crew announced where they were going.

"When we touched down I asked, 'where we at.  We're in Arizona.  Somebody said, Tucson.  I said, OK."

He says he did not expect what he found.  A friendly, well-organized shelter at the Tucson Convention Center ready to provide much more than a place to sleep and eat.

"We found that people had prepared for us to start all over immediately.  And when I say immediately they had everything there.  They had barber shops.  They had every clothes you want, every soap you want, every towel you want.  Every blanket you want."

He says they left the shelter about a week later with places to live and work.

"They gave us somewhere to get all the things you needed to go into a house and start your life. Almost any agency here that had jobs, in construction or restaurants, all of those people were at the Convention Center making possible for people to start their work life again."        

Joseph Smith thinks of about 90 evacuees, maybe 30 are still here in Tucson.  He's not sure why he stayed but says Tucson's hospitality and help could have something to do with it.

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