Viewpoint: August 25, 2010

Five years ago Sunday, Louisiana went into panic mode. With mandatory evacuations, coastal residents were facing their worst fears. Hurricane Katrina changed thousands of lives and it reshaped our future.

While Baton Rouge was safely out of the storm's catastrophic surge, our metro area faced a different type of surge, a surge of thousands of evacuees seeking shelter and survival. Our residents opened their doors and hearts, something we must always do.

That surge of people into Metro Baton Rouge exposed challenges here, like horrendous traffic and an infrastructure not ready for rapid growth, but five years later, the growth is obvious. We have more people, more homes, new subdivisions, retail shops and restaurants.

Some New Orleans favorites like ACME Oyster House and Galatoires are a part of our city. Business leaders like the Chamber and Baton Rouge Area Foundation are working more closely than ever with business groups in New Orleans.

The two areas have historically been at odds. Our cities are different in so many ways, but Katrina taught us that more regional cooperation strengthens us all. We can't imagine Louisiana with New Orleans and New Orleanians can't imagine a future without a neighbor like Baton Rouge.