- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 15, 2012

NEW ORLEANS | The last of the once-ubiquitous FEMA trailers has been removed from New Orleans more than six years after flood walls and levees broke during Hurricane Katrina and caused the city to fill with floodwaters.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said the last trailer was removed Sunday. The agency said on Monday that those living in the trailer moved into their rebuilt home last week. At one point, New Orleans had more than 23,000 FEMA-issued trailers and mobile homes.

Rebuilding fund shortfalls, health and personal problems, and other hurdles caused people to rely on trailers for so long. Most were able to move out of the trailers and mobile homes within a few years after Katrina struck in August 2005. By December 2010, about 230 were left in the city.

Mark C. Merritt, the president of Witt Associates, a disaster consultant firm working with Louisiana officials, said the FEMA trailers were used on the Gulf Coast out of necessity because so many houses were flooded.

“Six years [to remove all the trailers] sounds like a lot, but with the average catastrophic disaster, it takes six to 10 years to get a lot of things done,” he said.

FEMA and its contractors shipped about 203,000 mobile homes, travel trailers and other models to victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, two of the worst storms in U.S. history. The hurricanes destroyed more than 300,000 homes in 2005 and displaced about 700,000 people.

FEMA said there were three trailers still left in Louisiana from the 2005 hurricane season.

“It was an excellent idea [to have trailers]. It enabled people to stay close to their homes, work on them, monitor them,” said Edwin Weber, who lived in a trailer with his brother for five years.

The Webers were pushed out in February 2011 as part of an effort to rid the city of trailers. The city said they were eyesores. The two brothers moved into their home even though they hadn’t finished all the work on it that they wanted to do.

“They were starting to press. FEMA told us we had to move out or go through a bunch of hearings,” he said. “And so we hastily moved out.”

“I’m glad we’re out,” said Mr. Weber, 63. “You have to be prodded into doing something.”

He said it took so long to get the house in shape because he chose not to take federal rebuilding aid and did much of the renovation work himself.

Leaders hailed the removal of the last trailer as a milestone in the city’s rebuilding.

“Another page has turned in New Orleans’ post-Katrina history,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, crediting city code enforcement officials and FEMA for working together to get people out of the trailers.

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