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Wake County Welcomes Rita Evacuees As Katrina Evacuees Leave

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Craig Dorest is dead set on returning home to New Orleans.

The flooding, scarce necessities and other remnants of Hurricane Katrina that sent him to a Raleigh shelter for nearly three weeks don't matter.

Neither does Hurricane Rita, which caused more flooding as it barreled toward Texas on Friday.

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"You can't make a city if there ain't nobody there," Dorest said Friday outside a bus station in downtown Raleigh.

He was among the last of about 600 Katrina victims who took help from the Raleigh shelter that shut down Friday afternoon, soon after about 100 evacuees from Texas began arriving at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

They were elderly or had medical conditions and had been taken from hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living centers. A young mother with two children, one in a wheelchair, was among them.

"Even though they had been evacuating for two days they had very good attitudes and were calm, in good spirits," said Sharon Brown, a spokeswoman for Wake County, which is running the shelter.

The first plane from Beaumont, Texas, arrived in Raleigh with 33 people at about 4:45 a.m. Thirteen of them were taken to hospitals while the other 20 were taken to recuperate at the shelter before they were moved into hotels or other lodging. They'll return home after the storm blows through, officials said.

A second plane arrived later Friday with 61 people, and at least 35 of them were carried off the plane on stretchers, Brown said. About a third of them went to a triage area at the airport and then to area hospitals. The rest went to the shelter.

"We do not expect any more planes," Brown said. "The storm picked up and they don't want to risk planes taking off."

North Carolina was one of 11 states to receive thousands of evacuees through the National Disaster Medical System, including Georgia, Arkansas, New Mexico, and Kentucky. Charlotte was placed on alert but was not needed, Brown said.

Local officials didn't know the Texas evacuees were coming to Raleigh until about 1:15 a.m. Friday, said Gibbie Harris, community health director for Wake County. Officials still planned to officially close the shelter Friday afternoon.

Whether it reopens, that depends on Rita.

"We'll not do anything with the facility over the weekend. Nothing will be taken out of the facility," Harris said. "We're going to leave everything exactly as it is, so if we need to ramp back up based on more planes we'll be able to do that."

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