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Residents Who Fled New Orleans For New York Remember Hurricane Katrina

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Ten years ago Friday, the monster Hurricane Katrina was bearing down on New Orleans and almost half a million people fled.

As CBS2's Tony Aiello reported, thousands of those people came to New York, and some never left.

Yvahn Martin was one of those people.

"My mother called me at 6 am that Sunday and said: 'Pack your car or else I'm coming to get you. We're leaving,'" Martin said. "I left with four people and a dog in my car, and it began a whirlwind adventure."

Martin's adventure was not without adversity. She does not sugarcoat how difficult it was to abandon her life in New Orleans at the age of 23.

"Katrina impacted my life in some enormous ways," she said. "You know, I lost my home. My family was dispersed throughout the country. I can only say it was a twist of fate that led us here."

Artist Paul Deo also fled to the Big Apple from the Big Easy.

"My two sons and I, we evacuated early, early that morning," Deo said.

Deo was worried that the devastated city was no place to raise his young sons.

"We realized we couldn't go back home. And school was starting, and my sons had to start school, so we headed up to New York, where I do have family," Deo said. "My sons have excelled, and we're spreading the beautiful spirit of New Orleans in everything that we do."

That spirit infuses the public art that Deo has created in New York and New Orleans.

Martin, meanwhile, joined a group of young professionals who returned to New Orleans to gauge its recovery.

She said she may move back someday, but would not give up her decade in New York for anything.

"New York has given me a very unique opportunity to build my career in a way that I don't think I could do anywhere else in the world," Martin said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said more than 4,000 Gulf Coast residents sought refuge in New York after the storm. Ten years later, it is not clear how many permanently relocated.

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