Decade after fleeing New Orleans, Chattanooga residents reflect on storm that altered the paths of their lives forever

Jacques Irvin, right, talks about what attracted him to Tenesha, his now wife, when they met in Chattanooga after Hurricane Katrina.

One day before Hurricane Katrina destroyed his city, Jacques Irvin rode in his father's Ford Expedition, hoping to head west.

West meant California. It meant the sun. It meant a vacation. But the men on the radio told listeners not to bother. Cars with Louisiana license plates choked the westbound lanes of Interstate 10. Take that route and the Irvins might never get out of town.

So Irvin, his parents and seven other family members steered their caravan east. They didn't know where they were going. But his brother in Baltimore called every hotel along the highway, looking for a place for them to stay. Finally, he found vacancies at the Econo Lodge in East Ridge.

"Where?" Irvin asked his brother.

photo Tenesha and Jacques Irvin met in Chattanooga after Hurricane Katrina.