Facilities endure destruction, violence in Katrina aftermath

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Long-term care facilities in the battered Gulf Coast states had to react quickly to unusual circumstances in the devastation and chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina.

About 415 residents from an Armed Forces retirement facility in Gulfport, MS were bused to their sister facility in Washington, D.C., because of storm damage. The residents were scheduled to leave Wednesday night for a 1,000-mile trip aboard 10 chartered buses. The Washington home already houses 1,000 retirees.

In another situation, violence spurred the evacuation of about 80 residents from Covenant Home nursing center in New Orleans to other nursing homes in the state. The evacuation occurred after the driver of the facility's bus surrendered the bus to carjackers. Groups of people then drove by the facility, shouting, "Get out!" to residents, according to published reports. 

Conditions required immediate action in both cases. The Gulfport residents spent Monday hunkered down in their 11-story facility on the beach as the storm battered the coast. Ten feet of water flooded into the ground floor of the Gulfport home, ruining the kitchen, dining room, bowling alley and long-term care facility and submerging the emergency generator. The hurricane also blew down the home's water tower.

There was no power, no running water, limited phone service and food for only a few days. Residents likely will not be able to return for months, said Timothy C. Cox, chief operating officer of both government-run facilities.