After Katrina, to Juneau

New arrival had thought about capital city before the storm

Posted: Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Another displaced person from the Gulf Coast has arrived to live in Juneau.

Waiting in a high school gym near the Texas-Arkansas border became hopeless when he learned his apartment near the French Quarter of New Orleans was underwater, Rod Chandler said. He was moved to the gym after a brief stay in Baton Rouge, La.

"I was waiting to get my property. But otherwise I would have left sooner," he said. Chandler arrived in Juneau on Oct. 10.

His apartment was damaged not by the hurricane's winds, but by the floods that came after the city's levees burst.

Chandler's father wired him money for a bus ticket to his father's house near Los Angeles, where he arranged to work for the Gastineau Humane Society as a customer service representative.

"I was thinking about moving to Juneau before the hurricane," he said.

A well-traveled hiker, Chandler said Alaska was always on his list. He plans to look into working as a nature guide as well.

Unlike some hurricane victims who were assisted in their moves, Chandler paid for his transportation north, housing and other start-up costs up front.

This is partly because of the chaotic nature of the relief effort and miscommunication, he said. When he contacted the Red Cross for a travel voucher from Alaska Airlines, he was told they didn't exist.

But the airline has a program in place in which customers donated 15 million miles to the Red Cross to be used at its discretion. Uses could include transporting displaced people or relief workers, said Alaska spokeswoman Amanda Tobin.

Chandler is receiving help from a local chapter of national charity Love INC. The organization is giving him money for his travel cost, furniture and some financial assistance for his efficiency apartment downtown.

Chandler and David Eley, director of Love INC, tried contacting each other before Chandler arrived. Eley finally reached him Monday.

"We're going to help him as much as we can," Eley said.

Chandler was working as a bartender in New Orleans for an extended summer when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in late August.

Days before the storm, Chandler left for a hiking trip in the Appalachian Mountains. After hearing the news of the destruction, he decided to cut his trip short and return to Louisiana.

Chandler's arrival follows the Williams family, which came here from Biloxi, Miss., earlier this month. Love INC, which stands for Love in the Name of Christ, and the family's Juneau relatives were instrumental in getting them aid.

Another family displaced by the hurricane will arrive Wednesday. Latroy and Donnyell Burras, and their 1-month-old baby Kayla are coming from Longview, Texas, where they stayed after their home was destroyed in New Orleans.

Their baby was born in Texas after the storm.

"She seems like she's been taking it in stride," Eley of the new mother. Donnyell's aunt lives in Juneau and she has visited her here before.

The couple will have a furnished apartment downtown with rent paid through Jan. 1. The home also will include donations of food, clothing and baby needs.

Eley said Love INC came across to these people by word of mouth. The organization will continue to help any other displaced people who come to Juneau, Eley said.

He encourages people to come only if they are aware of Juneau's high cost of living and cold winters.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at

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