New Hurricane Threats and Funding Shortfall Delay Project417 New Orleans Mission

Mold marks calendar in flooded Gettridge home Aug. 29th, the date Katrina hit.

Mold marks calendar in flooded Gettridge home Aug. 29th, the date Katrina hit.

An update for Andy’s Project417 mission partners – As you might know, in addition to our work with the homeless here in Toronto, Project417 has been providing Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief in New Orleans since 2005. Between the week following Katrina in September, 2005 and November 2006, Project417 Executive Director Joe Elkerton and Andy Coates have been in New Orleans several times, from short two week missions to an extended stay by Andy from April to October of 2006, serving in disaster relief programs and heading up home re-building / recovery teams.

Since that time, several appeals by Project417 for funding of another home renovation mission to re-build houses destroyed by the flooding have fallen on deaf ears. Most people assume that this long after Katrina the city is not in any immediate need of relief. To the contrary – hundreds of thousands of homes were destroyed and many have not yet received any U.S. federal or state funding. Less than half the former residents are able to return.  In addition, of the hundreds of millions of dollars donated to some organizations, during Katrina, the majority of those funds left New Orleans when the immediate disaster was over, deposited in general funds until the next emergency, not to be used to help New Orleans as many donors intended.

Project417’s missions to New Orleans are of a small, grassroots nature and simply help local families rebuild their flood ravaged homes. More than 25 Toronto area volunteers have joined Andy and Joe on six separate occasions to help rebuild. One of those we helped, Mr. Herbert Gettridge of the Lower Ninth Ward of Orleans Parish, New Orleans, is the subject of an upcoming public televsion documentary on PBS Frontline, The Old Man and the Storm, by acclaimed producer June Cross (Watch it Jan. 6th, 2009 at 9PM, check local listings) telling the Gettridge family story of survival and recovery assited by volunteers from across North America, including Project417. Another we helped with a team from Heart Lake Baptist Church in Brampton, Mrs. Aline Dastague of Lakeview, is over 90 years old and was living in a retiremnt home while her home sat destroyed by the failure of the Canal Street Levee.

Andy was scheduled to go to New Orleans for the recent Labor Day weekend and take part in the August 29th Katrina Memorial events and visit Mr. Gettridge, to prepare for a planned November short-term mission to re-build more homes. But donations fell far short of the $1500 goal to fund the trip, although several long time supporters sent generous last-minute cheques. And then new hurricanes threatened New Orleans. Hurricane Gustav forced the evacuation of New Orleans and much of Louisiana, news covered here at the Missionlog, and threats from tropical storm Hanna, and Ike, and Josephine, so the trip has been delayed. Although Gustav was downgraded to category two and only glanced by New Orleans, the levees held and residents have received the return home notices, power is out for over a million people and there still was some serious flood damage from the hurricane borne torrential rains.

As soon as power is restored to the area and Project417 donations reach our modest goal, Andy will visit to assess the new damage, update recovery needs and finish preparatory planning for the November mission. Visit Project417 today to see how you can help or join the mission.

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UPDATE – January 5, 2009 – Andy has returned from two disaster relief trips to Galveston County, Texas for Hurricane Ike in San Leon, Texas – helping families rebuild their huricane ravaged homes. Vist Project417 to volunteer for the next trip. Returning from the most recent Texas trip, Andy visited Mr. and Mrs. Gettridge in their New Orleans home and made plans with Mr. Gettridge to set up a trust fund to build two new homes on property in the Lower Ninth ward owned by the Gettridge family.

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Gulf Coast New Orleans Spared as Gustav Downgraded and Passes Through

Hurricane Gustav moves inland, Hannah, Ike and Josephine move in.

Hurricane Gustav moves inland, Hannah, Ike and Josephine move in.

Thankfully, Hurricane Gustav weakened before striking the gulf coast and passing New Orleans. According to news reports, Hurricane Gustav was downgraded to Category 2 hurricane before making landfall about a hundred miles to the south west of New Orleans in the Cajun bayou country of coastal Louisiana. Although Gustav packed a punch, with strong winds up to 170 kmh, the recently repaired and improved levees in New Orleans held back the storm surge – which was about three metres less than that during Katrina. The levees held, and the newly constructed storm gates were effective. The main levee along the New Orleans Industrial Canal was tested by Hurricane Gustav though, with the waters rising to the brim of the levee walls and storm blown waters cresting the top and cascading down into residential neighborhoods. The Industrial Canal was one of the levees to fail catastrophically during Katrina and cause the devastating flooding of the Lower Ninth Ward resulting in almost total destruction of the community.

The Lower 9th of Orleans Parish was where Project417 provided relief and reconstruction on three homes for the family of Mr. Herbert Gettridge in 2006 following Hurricane Katrina. As of Monday during the passing of Gustav, there were reports of flooding in Orleans Parish streets from ankle to knee depth due to the water flowing over the tops of the levee. There were widespread power blackouts as Gustav’s hurricane winds shredded electrical power lines and toppled poles and towers with more than a million homes affected. Thank God so far the Industrial Canal levee, strengthened and upgraded in the past three years has held. In addition, the water pumps which are critical to pumping all storm drain and sewage from below-sea-level New Orleans, continued working – during Katrina, they were the first to fail. New Orleans Mayor, Ray Nagin, had earlier in the week ordered the mandatory evacuation of New Orleans, which went smoothly aided by contraflow traffic on the interstates and a well ordered parish by parish exodus, and is expected to issue the return home notices soon. Many New Orleans residents still chose to ride out the storm and hospitals were operating with skeleton staffing crews and back-up power. Reports are still coming in from southwest Louisiana where the brunt of the hurricane hit first. In addition, Bay St. Louis and Biloxi, Mississippi, both heavily damaged during Katrina, were also reporting heavy wind damage and surge flooding from Gustav.

As the Accuweather satellite photo depicts above, there is still a triple threat of hurricanes in the Atlantic from tropical storms Hannah, Ike and Josephine.

Project417 is heading to New Orleans in November, 2008 to continue re-construction in the Lower Ninth Ward. Outreach worker Andy Coats had been scheduled to visit New Orleans over the Labor Day weekend, but the news of Gustav has postponed that preparatory trip. Visit Project417 here to volunteer and donate to the recovery efforts.

[with notes from Toronto Sun, and Accuweather]

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