Eight Years Later: One Louisiana Church’s A/V Still Deals with Hurricane Katrina

One church's journey back from the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

Eight Years Later: One Louisiana Church’s A/V Still Deals with Hurricane Katrina

Dealing with Disaster

From the day after Katrina until now, First United Methodist has be taking strides to return their church back to normal. Follow through to the slide show to see their progress.

Eight Years Later: One Louisiana Church’s A/V Still Deals with Hurricane Katrina

Dealing with Disaster

From the day after Katrina until now, First United Methodist has be taking strides to return their church back to normal. Follow through to the slide show to see their progress.

Photos & Slideshow

Eight Years Later: One Louisiana Church’s A/V Still Deals with Hurricane Katrina

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On August 29, 2005, New Orleans and the region around it were inundated by water during Hurricane Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States. Katrina killed over 1,800 people and, according to The New York Times, wreaked an estimated $148 billion in damage.

Much of that damage remains waiting to be fixed. At the First United Methodist Church in Slidell, just across Lake Ponchartrain from New Orleans, there is a marker memorializing the 5-foot-high water point Katrina reached. However, the marker is just a formality. The hurricane’s own marks are still plenty visible on doors and walls across the church campus, which includes the sanctuary, a gymnasium/family center and offices. Eight years later, much of that physical infrastructure has been reallocated, with offices and Sunday school moved to different parts of the H-shaped main building and the church itself moved back into its original location inside the structure. But the actual rebuilding is still underway, slowly, hampered by lack of funds and seemingly endless bureaucratic speed bumps. After Hurricane Sandy hit the U.S. east coast, Butch Levy, the multimedia coordinator for the First United, says his experience with Katrina could serve as a guide for other churches that may someday find themselves in the path of a major natural disaster.

Insurance and Planning Ahead

For starters, Levy says that it was only in the wake of Katrina that the church realized how badly underinsured it was. With damage estimated at about $2.5 million, and only about $500,000 in FEMA funds and insurance proceeds to work with, they had to seek additional financing in the form of a combination of low-interest Federal and commercial bank loans. He came to work at the church in the months after Katrina had hit, and it was only then that Levy, who had worked in a music store in the area for many years where he gained some experience with installed sound systems, had seen the new sound system that had been quickly installed in the sanctuary in order to get Sunday services underway again.

“It was a real piecemeal system,” he says, noting components from a number of different brands, such as the Community speakers and the Crown amplifiers, as well as the Soundcraft LX7i mixer. A variety of brands isn’t necessarily a problem, but Levy says that not a lot of care appeared to have gone into matching the major components. A bigger issue for a church under that kind of financial pressure, he says, was the fact that while church groups came in from other areas of the country to help First United Methodist and other area churches rebuild, they often tossed out the A/V baby with the hurricane’s bathwater. “The church had some Bose PA speakers before the flood that had been hung 50 feet in the air and likely would have been still good to use, but they just carried them to the curb along with everything else,” he says.

The new Soundcraft mixer was a good one but at 24 channels it was too


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Worship Facilities Magazine, March-April 2018
The March-April 2018 issue of Worship Facilities Magazine offers articles about how to prepare, prevent and respond to church violence, a look into what church management software can do for your church community, and a piece on how a once popular nightclub venue was transitioned to become Shoreline Church's new home.


Article Topics

Media · Slideshows · Projects · Technology · Audio · Visual Arts · Multi-media · Audio · Church · Speaker · All Topics

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