Following Hurricane Ida’s landfall on August 29 in Louisiana and slow march northeast through Mississippi, reports are emerging about how the storm affected EPC congregations in the region.
Bill Crawford, Pastor of the yoked congregations First Presbyterian Church in Thibodaux, La., and First Presbyterian Church in Houma, La., rode out the hurricane in the Thibodaux church building. Houma and Thibodaux—about 15 miles apart—are the closest EPC congregations to where the storm came ashore as a Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds. Crawford was interviewed by WWL-TV Channel 4 News in New Orleans. Crawford said he watched roof tiles “flying away.”
Brandon Queen, a Ruling Elder for the Thibodaux congregation and a Juvenile Detective with the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office, said the most extensive damage he has seen is in the southern areas of the Parish.
“Some areas look like Third World countries,” Queen said. “Our church in Thibodaux has some leaks, and the members I’ve talked to have roof shingles off and fences blown down. I am told that the church in Houma did not fare so well, and I’ve heard that some church members in Houma had significant damage to their homes.”
On the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain north of New Orleans, Hunter Gray reported by email that there are “lots of trees on houses” in Covington and Mandeville. “We’re cutting them out and putting tarps on.” Gray is Pastor of New Covenant EPC in Mandeville, La.
He noted that the electricity was out and likely would be for several weeks.
“We’re good; just lacking comfort,” Gray wrote.
Approximately 75 miles west in Baton Rouge, Jane Cooper—a Ruling Elder for First Presbyterian Church—also reported that power was out “with no predictions or promises” for restoration.
“Although some church families have had property damage, no one was injured,” she added.
On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Kory Duncan reported by email that “all is good in Ocean Springs” and that volunteers were “gearing up to help our sister churches in Louisiana.” Duncan serves as Associate Pastor of Missions and Congregational Care for First Presbyterian Church of Ocean Springs.
Michael Herrin, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Gulf South, reported by email on August 31 that ten of the Presbytery’s churches have gathered an initial load of supplies and will be transporting it to New Covenant EPC on Wednesday, September 1. These include such items as chainsaws, generators, gasoline, tarps, duct tape, bottled water, batteries, trash bags, cleaning supplies, and more.
“That’s only the beginning. In the weeks and months to come, many more supplies will be needed,” Herrin wrote. “Once power is restored, work teams will be welcome to help with debris removal.”
He added that First Presbyterian Church in Thibodaux will be able to host volunteers soon, but first needs an experienced plumber to help them get their showers operational.
“We’ll continue to have opportunities to show the love of Christ in practical ways to the people of South Louisiana for quite some time,” Herrin concluded. “Let’s pray for those who are in need, and then let’s get to work!”
To aid in relief efforts, the EPC Emergency Relief Fund will distribute funds to EPC congregations in the region for identified needs. Secure online donations can be made at www.epc.org/donate/emergencyrelief.
“As we all realize, this is an unprecedented time of seemingly endless tragedies,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “Our Emergency Relief Fund provides us with maximum flexibility to respond to this, as well as previous and ongoing situations.”