Water lapped at the sides of St. Anthony Church in Lafitte. The town has been flooded many times in the absence of a ring levee.
By Peter Finney Jr.
On the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina Aug. 29, Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond offered prayers for people in the Archdiocese of New Orleans impacted by slow-moving Hurricane Isaac.
The storm dumped more than 15 inches of rain on southeast Louisiana and caused widespread flooding but spared New Orleans from major damage.
In a conference call with the leadership team of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans the archbishop acknowledged the suffering of thousands of people in south Louisiana from flooding.
“We consciously place ourselves in God’s presence and ask him to give us his protection,” he said in an opening prayer. “God has always promised to protect us in challenging times, and we ask that God does that now, especially with those who are struggling.”
Aug. 29: Twice remembered
Former Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes, who was archbishop of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, rode out Isaac at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. He called the timing of Isaac, on the same day, seven years later, from Hurricane Katrina, “rather eerie.”
“We have to be grateful that it was only a Category 1,” Archbishop Hughes said. “The pumps seem to be working, although we’ve had some flash flooding. But there’s no serious flooding (in the city) that I’m aware of.”
Seven years ago on Aug. 29, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans by blowing holes in the city’s levee system, filling more than 80 percent of the city with water.
This time, the more than $10 billion in high-tech hurricane defenses and massive pumps installed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the wake of Katrina kept New Orleans mostly unscathed.
But surrounding areas sustained massive flooding from the creeping storm, which took 36 hours to clear. Areas of St. Tammany Parish sustained damage from rising water.
Widespread power outages were expected to stretch for several days.
Archbishop Aymond said he was still awaiting more exact reports of damages to archdiocesan properties. One of the hardest-hit church was Assumption of Our Lady Mission in Braithwaite.
Father Joseph M. Tran, pastor of St. Thomas Parish in Pointe a la Hache and Assumption Mission, said the small Braithwaite church, spiritual home to about 100 families, was on high ground and had never flooded before. He received reports of 6 to 8 feet of flooding from parishioners.
Caught off guard
“That really surprised me,” said the priest, who was on his way back to Louisiana after having evacuated to Birmingham, Ala. “Assumption was never flooded, not for (hurricanes) Betsy, Camille or Katrina.”
Catholic Charities moved 22 family members who were residing at a homeless family shelter program to a nearby hotel after leaks to the residence made it unsafe for them to remain there, said Martin Gutierrez, vice president of Catholic Charities.
Another program, Padua Pediatrics for children and teens with severe developmental difficulties, had only emergency power, but not enough to power the air conditioning.
“We have some industrial-sized fans to circulate the air,” said Samantha Pichon, a Catholic Charities vice president.
A few hours later, the Louisiana National Guard delivered a 350-kilowatt generator – enough to power four houses – to run the entire facility
The archdiocese also received reports of possible flooding at St. Anthony rectory in Lafitte, St. Patrick Church and rectory in Port Sulphur, Our Lady of the Lake Church in Mandeville and St. Anselm Church in Madisonville.
Schools in the archdiocese were to remain closed until Sept. 4.
The archdiocese was also making plans to get direct financial assistance to those most impacted by the storm though a donation page at www.ccano.org.
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.