The Old Man and the Storm – Hurricane Katrina documentary – Jan 6th on PBS

Mr. Herbert Gettridge

Mr. Herbert Gettridge

About a true hero of  Hurricane Katrina: Mr. Herbert Gettridge – airing January 6, 2009 and online. Six months after Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans, producer June Cross came across 82-year-old Herbert Gettridge working alone on his home in the lower Ninth Ward, a neighborhood devastated when the levees broke in 2005. Over the next two years, Cross documented the Gettridge family’s story. After a long wait, the film  – The Old Man and the Storm – will air on PBS to tell the story of perseverance against all odds, not the least of which is the bungling of recovery efforts by state and federal agencies.

Project417’s Andy Coates came across Mr. Gettridge in the Lower Ninth ward in April of 2006, eight months after the storm hit. Like Cross he found Mr. G, as he became affectionately known, working by himself – the only home-owner for blocks around struggling to clean-up his property and repair his hurricane ravaged home.  I visited him at his home last month returning from our Texas Hurricane Ike relief trip.

I first visited New Orleans in March 2006, eight months after Katrina, to volunteer for two weeks with the Salvation Army. Our director Joe Elkerton had been a first responder in September of ’05 just after the storm. When I saw the devastation of the city and the snail’s pace at which recovery was taking place, I decided to stay for the next six months and organize volunteer teams through Project417 to help with the clean-up. Over the course of that stay, Mr. Herbert Gettridge, Andy and Paul, July 2006almost a hundred volunteers came down to work on projects with me – three of the work sites were properties owned by the Gettridge family in the Lower Ninth Ward of Orleans Parish, New Orleans.  Everyone who met Mr. Herbert Gettridge realized he was no victim  – 82 years old, he was one of the first returning residents of the Lower 9th – and was working single-handed to fix his home. His mission, to rebuild it so his wife, staying with family in Madison, Wisconsin, could rejoin him in the home they had built together more than fifty years ago.  Many faith based volunteer teams pitched in to help Mr. Gettridge re-build – and that story is told in June Cross’ film on PBS . (It was so wonderful to be able to visit with both Mr. and Mrs. Gettridge in their renovated home last month – what he’d been wishing and working for so long).

Almost without exception, everywhere in New Orleans re-building was taking place, hard working church volunteers were making a difference.  Of course there were a multitude of recovery teams, not just faith-based, that came to New Orleans to fill the vacuum left by the total absence of any organized government efforts – including groups like the local Common Ground who adopted the Lower Ninth,  and young hard-working AmeriCorps youth were sweating it out all across the gulf. (Project417 hosted AmeriCorps teams at two Lower Ninth sites).

Be sure to watch the story of a true American hero – The Old Man and the Storm – on PBS January 6th at 9pm (check local listings).  And when you’re done, consider coming with Project417 back to the Gulf and continue the re-building that is still going on. We want to get a fund set up to build new homes on two properties owned by Mr. Gettridge in the Lower Ninth. All across the Lower Ninth are still homes that have not been touched since Katrina 3 1/2 years ago. In Mississippi, from Waveland to Biloxi, re-construction continues – house foundations still lay bare.  Following Hurricane’s Gustav and Ike this fall, Project417 is hosting teams in Galveston County, Texas – the devastation is on the scale of that visited by Katrina.  The people of the Gulf coast need you, their neighbors, to come and help them.

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Onsite with Hurricane Ike – Emergency Disaster Services Houston – Project417

Update:Hurricane Ike Disaster Relief

As of 4AM today (Sept. 26th) Andy Coats of Project417 is flying down to Houston as a member of the first Canadian Emergency Disaster Services team of the Salvation Army. There is a team of 10 in total for the first responders, and the assignment will last until October 9th, 2008. At that time the second team will come down to relieve us (although I’m prepared to stay longer.

Setting up the EDS Warehouse in Gretna

Setting up the EDS Warehouse in Gretna

My assignment, with colleagues from Canada, is with the Salvation Army EDS in Houston, for distribution of food and emergency supplies to victims, EDS teams and emergency service personnel: hot meals, water, MRE’s, med kits, clean-up kits, personal hygiene items,  snacks, food boxes and other donated items for victims. Other team members will be on mobile canteen duty, crisis intervention counselling (CISM), grief counselling and spiritual support.

During the time there I will also meet with the Houston CSM city leader to assess the damage to their housing site and possible relief services for the next missions. There may be an opportunity to visit Galveston to survey the damage also – and a trip to New Orleans to arrange the November short-term mission details.

I may or may not have access to the internet, but if I do I will continue to post updates and photos or make arrangements for them to be posted on my behalf. Ditto with email, so don’t be concerned if you’re not hearing from me. You can always reach me on my cell phone – visit the Project417.com site for details.

If you need to contact me, please contact Rev. Joe Elkerton, Executive Director of Project417 email:  elkerton at project417 dot com.

Gutting Houses

Please consider making a donation today to help the Hurricane Ike victims in Texas (Galveston and Houston) and New Orleans, Louisiana – by making a secure online donation with PayPal to Project417 (a registered charity of: Ekklesia Inner City Ministries)

Four New Hurricane Ike Updates – Volunteer – Donate

“]Volunteers begin massive Hurricane Ike clean-upSept. 20, 2008 – Four new articles posted on Digg.com today that really illustrate the scope of the disaster relief efforts spawned by recent hurricanes Ike and Gustav across the Gulf Coast region and into the Midwest. Follow the read more links to visit the original news articles for photos and updated relief information. Some of the recent photos posted are mind-boggling – both Ike and Gustav have turned out to be much more destructive than originally reported. Don’t forget to digg the story and improve our search results on Digg.com, a great social networking news aggregator. Scroll down to read the following posts and other recent Hurricane news here at the Mission Log –

  • Hurricane Ike Aftermath – Photos Slideshow

  • Hurricane Ike Victims Toll Rises – FEMA’s Chertoff Criticized

  • Ike Death Toll Rises as Does Victims’ Pain

  • Louisiana: Ike – Gustav Relief Effort Updates & News Releases

And take a moment to consider making a donation to Project417 to help the victims of Ike and Gustav, as well as the ongoing Re-build New Orleans programs which continue today after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Andy Coats is heading down this week to take part in the Ike / Gustav relief operations and finalize plans for the November Home Re-Building team.

Hurricane Ike Aftermath – Photos Slideshow

Dallas /Fort Worth NBC5  – new photos from across the state that show the overwhelming aftermath of Hurricane Ike along with emergency rescue first responders, volunteers and relief efforts.

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After Powerful Hurricane, Rescuers Scour Ravaged Areas

Emergency officials struggled to carry out rescue efforts on Sunday after Hurricane Ike roared across a wide swath of Texas, deluging the city of Galveston and other coastal areas with a surge of water, leaving extensive damage across metropolitan Houston, and killing at least three people. Ike ravaged much of the Gulf coats including Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. More… [NY Times – source]

Donate now to help Hurricanes Ike and Gustav victims.

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New Orleans Update – Hurricane Ike Headed for Texas Coast – Louisiana Watchful

Hurricane and storm watch alerts for Ike

Hurricane and storm watch alerts for Ike

Latest reports are that Hurricane Ike, which battered Cuba with high winds and a five story storm surge, will make landfall on the Southeast Texas coast – Galveston Island to Houston area late friday, early Saturday. Currently rated category 2, but expected to pick up steam to category 3 at least before striking, Ike is already afftecting the Louisiana gulf coast area and New Orleans with winds in excess of 70 mph [ 120kph ] . Although the center of the storm’s path is headed towards Texas, it’s effects spread across hundreds of miles of southwest U.S. gulf coastline.

I’ve been planning to head down to New Orleans for Project417 since Labour Day weekend and the drive for donations to fund the trip is doing moderately well. However, there is still a shortfall of almost $800 to cover the trip expenses. For details of the project click here or visit Project417.com .  Please donate so we can continue to help the residents of New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 while they are still threatened by this years onslaught of tropical storms and hurricanes.  You can donate online by clicking on the Paypal link above or on the MissionLog home page.

Thanks!    <><  Andy

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.

|| Visit Project417 Online ||

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.

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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