THREE UU CHURCHES, ONE HURRICANE AND THE FEDERAL FLOOD OF ‘05
Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans area. Federally-constructed levees broke, flooding the city and filling two of New Orleans’ Unitarian Universalist churches with brackish water and damaging a third church, located in nearby St. Tammany Parish.
First UU of New Orleans, founded in 1833, took on between 3-5 feet of water, which sat in the large church complex for three weeks. Insurance compensation was received for the damaged roof, but not for damage caused to the structure or contents by the floodwaters.
Located three blocks from the infamous breach in the 17th St. Canal, Community Church drowned in water up to its roof. Almost everything inside the church was lost. CCUU had flood insurance, but the coverage was insufficient.
Across the lake, Katrina damaged the roof of the North Shore UU Society building, but the real impact was felt in the great reduction in membership.
Besides the church buildings, Katrina and the flood wreaked even more havoc among our people. We lost members and friends, and most people who were able to stay suffered extensive damage to their homes.
Some are still displaced. 40-50% of our members chose or were forced to leave the area permanently. We are hardy souls. Almost immediately following the storm, we started to regroup and rebuild our congregations, physically, spiritually, and in human capital. Hurricane Katrina’s destruction was vast, 90,000 plus square miles (roughly the size of Great Britain). Over two years later, most of the area is still virtually uninhabited. We still face years of government red tape, time-consuming and expensive infrastructure repair, and slow economic revitalization.
Still, New Orleans and the North Shore are home to a committed community of UUs and a larger community in great need. There is much work to be done to rebuild and revitalize this unique region in a just and sustainable way. The members and friends of all three UU churches are deeply committed to playing a key role in these efforts.