Cullman County gave credence to the term Southern hospitality and proved its residents have a heart for giving when hundreds of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina and Rita fled the Gulf Coast.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, about 800 evacuees sought shelter in Cullman County. At first, the Cullman Civic Center served as an American Red Cross Shelter for those who didn't immediately go to hotels. A few days later, evacuees were moved to St. Andrews United Methodist Church before relocating to area hotels with funding from Red Cross and FEMA.

To date, fewer than 100 evacuees are still in Cullman County, many settling in, finding work and attending schools.

When the disaster struck and the extent of the damage from broken levees was realized, an outpouring of donations and assistance was offered to evacuees who no longer had a home to which they could return. Through efforts of the local chapter of the American Red Cross, churches, organizations, business and individuals, the evacuees were provided clothing, shelter and resources to help begin the process of rebuilding their lives.

Local and national contributions brought in more than $500,000 to assist evacuees in Cullman County through the Red Cross. Almost $90,000 of that was raised by Cullman County residents. Dozens of people volunteered to assist at Red Cross centers.

Mass feedings were provided at Seventh Street Baptist Church on Alabama Highway 157 for evacuees staying in area hotels.

Several individuals and groups also made their way to the Gulf to help out in the crisis. Dr. Scott Warner traveled to New Orleans where he provided medical care to evacuees of Hurricane Katrina. He returned to the Gulf Coast weeks later in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.

The Cullman Electric Cooperative sent crews to assist those on the Gulf Coast trying to restore power.

Locally, Cullman was spared damage from Katrina's high winds. Gusts measured up to 39 mph once the system reached north Alabama. At one point, 26,000 customers were without power.

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