NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - When Hurricane Katrina hit, New Orleanians sought shelter in states like Florida. This weekend Floridians did the same when thousands fled Irma by driving to New Orleans.
One of those families expressed a sense of relief when the finally arrived here from their home south of Jacksonville. "I feel relieved. Safe like we are on an evacuation," said Florida evacuee, Rick Baer.
He, his wife, their three sons and three-week-old new born baby girl say they feared the worst had they stayed to ride out the storm in Florida.
"We were afraid to be in the house with no electricity, possibly stranded, having to evacuate with four little ones." said Tiffany Davis Baer. Her little son too also expressed his own anxiety. "I was scared that our house was going to collapse and all our stuff would be ruined," said little Arik Baer.
They're among the thousands of evacuees who came here to escape Irma and it's expected more will be driving into the city. "Pretty much every garage we have over the weekend has been full," said Jacob Micas, the Parking Manager at the City's Parking Management Services. As of the weekend, the downtown garages were packed with vehicles bearing Florida license plates.
Micas says the Parking Management Services operates most of the privately-owned garages downtown and in the city's Central Business District.
He says the spots, usually available for local drivers, will be occupied at the start of the work week. "We own University Garage, Commerce Garage, the Kress Garage, as well as the Villerie lot, the Fulton one on Convention Boulevard and the Howard Park and Ride," said Micas.
The company hopes opening the Treme Parking Garage on Iberville and providing shuttle buses with it will help alleviate some of the problems. But they also hope local drivers will keep in mind it's not as bad as what Floridians are facing with Irma.
"We are mostly concerned about wind damage and not flooding damage. Hopefully, everything has gone right," said Rick Baer. "We've been saying we are the best at making lemonade out of lemons. We just hope when we get home the house is fine," added his wife Tiffany Davis Baer.
The parking service says they will also put up signs to alert people of the situation and where they could find extra parking.