Christine McAtee hopes to go back to New Orleans some day, but for the foreseeable future, Texas is where she'll live and run her marketing firm.
Ms. McAtee, owner of Adventures in Advertising/Insignia Marketing, is one of thousands of small business owners forced to leave the city ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and start over someplace else.
The storm left water in Ms. McAtee's home and her office, but the dampness that pervaded everything was just as destructive, damaging files and leaving computers inoperable. And with the city paralyzed, it was clear it would be hard for her to rebuild her company and take care of her two children.
There were awful moments as she salvaged what she could: "You think, this can't be happening, when you slip and fall in the grime and you're covered with who knows what and there's no running water to wash it off with."
And outside her office, it was catastrophic.
"There weren't a lot of people around. I looked around and thought I was deathly scared to lose the business I'd built all those years," she said.
Ms. McAtee decided to look for temporary office space in another city, with the expectation that she'd move back to New Orleans, where she was born and grew up. But with so many other business owners competing for space and the thought of having to uproot her business again at some point she decided, "Instead of going for temporary office space, I looked for something I wouldn't have to close down in a few months."
Ms. McAtee ended up near Houston, where she opened an office and continued working. While she had New Orleans clients who were displaced, her company also has many clients in other cities. She believes the move saved the business, because it allowed her to get back to work faster.
"We're back on track, where we should have been at this time," Ms. McAtee said. "I can see the growth starting to come back."
But she's also hoping someday to go back to New Orleans: "We'll see what happens."
For Greg Mangiaracina, the move from New Orleans to San Antonio is permanent. After seeing how the storm had unsettled his family, the safety of his wife and children became paramount.
Like Ms. McAtee, Mr. Mangiaracina, owner of A-Pro Home Inspection Services, knew he had to act quickly to save the business. The problem he faced was the destruction of the city's infrastructure -- his business includes running training programs for franchisees from around the country and without a functioning airport and tourism industry, he couldn't get people to come to New Orleans.
Mr. Mangiaracina said he knew he could survive -- "I could go back to New Orleans and be in an engineering firm" -- but he felt a responsibility to the 120 franchisees in his system, so he decided to move.
He had a Sept. 30 deadline for getting a new training facility set up somewhere else, as he had a class scheduled then. So he chose San Antonio: "I was looking for a place relatively free of natural disasters and a large city that had easy access to around the country. I needed a place that had good tourism."
The New Orleans training facility was intact, although Mr. Mangiaracina's original leak detection business, the one that spawned the franchise system, was destroyed. With help, he loaded trucks with 7,000 square feet of furniture and transported the facility's contents to Texas.
The move has been fortuitous; Mr. Mangiaracina said his sales had doubled. That has helped to solidify his decision not to return to New Orleans.
"I can't put my family through this again," he said.
Relocating was easy for Andrew Jaeger -- he already was opening a San Francisco version of his New Orleans restaurant, Jaeger's House of Seafood and Jazz.
Mr. Jaeger said his New Orleans restaurant, on Decatur Street in the French Quarter, had little physical damage, but that the dearth of tourists meant he had little business.
"We tried to reopen it a few weeks later," after the storm, he said. "We eventually closed it -- we were waiting for it to get better and it never quite did."
Mr. Jaeger said he goes back to New Orleans every few weeks to help out friends and relatives including his brother, whose restaurant was wiped out. Mr. Jaeger's keeping an eye on the city's recovery and waiting to see when he'll be able to return.
"There's no way I'm going to give up on New Orleans," he said. He's planning to open his restaurant in a different location, perhaps closer to Bourbon Street -- "where the action is now."
"If we find the right location, we'll jump on it," he said. "My heart's there."