22 Gustav evacuees under one Valdosta roof - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

22 Gustav evacuees under one Valdosta roof

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By Alicia Eakin - bio | email

September 2, 2008

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin says its still to soon to return home after Hurricane Gustav.

Now, the millions who evacuated will have to wait in shelters, hotels and out-of-state accommodations for a few more days.

For one family in Valdosta that means staying in a home so packed it gives new meaning to "Full House."

Millions fled when Hurricane Gustav threatened the Gulf Coast.

"We run for the hills.  We run for higher ground," says Rose Pichon, a Gustav evacuee from Slidell, Louisiana.

In Valdosta, Brian Antoine rolled out his welcome mat.  "We lived in New Orleans most of our lives so we knew the drill."

His family and friends came in droves.

"I got the calls all day and all night from family members saying we're coming and we're coming.  What are you guys going because we're going to come up," Antoine says.

22 people, two dogs and several birds.  All under one roof.

"The more the merrier, we'll make room," Antoine says.

The living room is now a bedroom.  The couches, now cots.  Every corner, nook and a cranny of the home shows signs of travel.

"You'll have air mattresses or bedding no matter what," Rose says.

Packed accommodations but no one here seems to mind. 

"It brings everybody together and we can share our experiences," says Richard Pichon.

"It's like a family reunion," Antoine adds.

A reunion and a support group.

"We all just need to be there to support each other," Richard says.

22 shoulders to lean on as the stress of evacuation takes it toll.  "Last night was very restless for us thinking about what the impact was going to be sustained in Slidell," Rose says.  "I'm exhausted.  I'm very distraught about having to leave our town every time."

But these evacuees will remain in good company until the evacuation orders are lifted and they make the long return home.

The Antoine's moved to Valdosta from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

They say they've evacuated to family and friends homes may times over the years.

This was the first time they were able to return the favor.

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