Katrina rolled into New Orleans in August. Texas and Louisiana hosted Rita. And, no, neither of the ladies were famous supermodels.

Two massive hurricanes became the target of all news coverage for months after the Gulf Coast became the storms’ bullseye.

While Katrina devastated “The Big Easy”, Rita had more of an effect in Navarro County. Interstate 45 became one long stream of flowing vehicles.

That’s when the major north/south thoroughfare wasn’t gridlocked.

Jimmy Payne and several family members were traveling from Buna, about 30 minutes from Beaumont. With three cars and 12 total people, he said it had been a long haul just to reach Corsicana.

“This was our first stop ... needed gasoline,” an obviously tired Payne said, sitting on a metal parking slot stop in front of Mickey’s Exxon at U.S. Highway 287. “On the way? There were cars everywhere, people sleeping on the side of the road, sleeping in their trunks. It was crazy.”

Their trip time? Payne said they left Buna at midnight Wednesday. The Daily Sun spoke to him just after 11 a.m. Thursday, some 11 hours later.

Double evacuee Anna Maria McDonald was the most experienced encountered in September. Having already fled New Orleans for her daughter’s house in Houston, she was on her way to Dallas on the 22nd to yet another relative’s home.

“Difficult, difficult, difficult,” McDonald said of her Katrina experiences. “The water was all the way to the roof of my (New Orleans) house. With the situation the way it is, we can’t go back.”

Emergency management officials were kept busy as well, scrambling to help with the massive outflow of traffic while at the same time preparing for the possibility of severe weather here.

Corsicana Fire Chief Donald McMullan wears dual hats, acting also as the City’s emergency management coordinator.

“All of our city staff, from police, fire, public works and clerical staff, are on call to be brought in over the weekend as needed,” McMullan said on Sept. 22.

The aftermath of the storms continued long after the winds and rains subsided. After Katrina, Corsicana became the home to a major aid distribution center operated by The Salvation Army. After Rita, local churches and charitable organizations worked feverishly to help evacuees that stopped their flight in Navarro County as well as those on Interstate 45 that ran out of gas and food.

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