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Seminary sustained some damage but is spared major strike by Hurricane

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–While tropical storm force winds and rains from Hurricane Georges were still in progress along the Gulf Coast Sept. 29, the worst is over for the greater New Orleans area and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
“God appears to have spared New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and the city of New Orleans a direct hit from Hurricane Georges,” said Chuck Kelley, seminary president, also announcing the seminary will be closed two more days, Sept. 29-30 due to continued power outages.
As of the evening of Sept. 27, all signs appeared Hurricane Georges was headed straight for New Orleans, which would have devastated the below-sea level city. Most students, staff and faculty of the seminary were among the hundreds of thousands of people who evacuated the greater New Orleans area. At that time Georges was a low category three hurricane with winds of 111 m.p.h. and a predicted rainfall of up to 20″. Gale-force winds and heavy rain began late that day in the city, with the eye of the hurricane expected to hit New Orleans by 1 p.m. Sept. 28. Instead, the hurricane hit the Biloxi/Gulfport area of Mississippi.
“The seminary’s impact has been from sustained high winds Sunday night and all day Monday, causing loss of power and downed trees,” Kelley said.
As of Tuesday morning, damage assessment on campus had not been completed since the storm was still in progress. Three large trees and many branches fell in various places on the campus. None damaged property or harmed residents, although there were several close calls and two broken trees are in precarious positions to seminary residences.
“We were able to evacuate most of the campus family,” Kelley said. “Those who remained have handled the storm very well.”
New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial issued a voluntary evacuation notice Sept. 26, for areas within the city’s levee protection system, where the seminary is located, and a mandatory evacuation notice for the most flood-prone areas and trailer parks. Kelly urged anyone who wanted to leave the campus to do so as soon as possible since the city would be closing all highways, including Interstate 10, at 2 p.m. Sept. 27.
The seminary’s 52-lot trailer park was evacuated Sept. 26. Many families and single students drove to northern Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to stay with family and friends and churches that had notified the seminary of shelter space for students who could not return home.
The seminary established a shelter and emergency personnel command post in its Dodd Dormitory, a men’s dorm on the western and higher side of the campus. Other than the trailer park, of which all mobile homes are owned by students, all seminary buildings previously had been evaluated for safety and stability by Red Cross personnel and were deemed sturdy enough to weather a hurricane. Students left the campus because of the possibility of flooding and power outages.
“We ask Southern Baptists to continue to pray for us as we attempt to get the seminary back on line Wednesday, and pray for safe return of those who evacuated, many into areas experiencing severe weather,” Kelley said.

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  • Debbie Moore