"The biggest operational issue for NOBTS was loss of power and the winds that delayed the beginning of repair work until yesterday ," NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said.
"That is why we had to delay reopening offices and classes on the New Orleans campus. Damage assessment is incomplete at this time, but initial estimate is less than $300,000.
"I am grateful for the providential mercy of God," Kelley said. "If the Category 2 winds we expected had come and blown for as long as Isaac stayed, the aftermath would have been far more serious."
But the storm never reached Category 2 status and the campus damage was not extensive, compared to the devastation at the campus caused by Katrina in 2005.
Several campus-based homes and apartment buildings experienced minor roof damage from Isaac, mainly shingle loss. Limbs were down throughout campus and multiple termite-damaged trees fell. Two faculty homes were hit by falling trees. One house will require significant repairs; the other received only minor damage. However, the campus did not experience major flooding like it did in Katrina. Some who rode out the storm on campus compared the rain accumulations during Isaac to those of an average summer rain storm.
Kelley emphasized that the campus is not ready for students and their families to return. Students will not be allowed to return to campus until the "All Clear" is posted on the seminary's tropical weather update site http://www.nobts.edu/Publications/TropicalUpdates.html.
Isaac lingered near the city for the better part of two and a half days. New Orleans began feeling Isaac's effects on Aug. 28 and the storm continued throughout the day Aug. 29. Heavy rain bands continued to pelt the city periodically throughout the morning on Aug. 30, with the storm clearing the New Orleans area around midday. Damage assessments and repair work began in earnest the afternoon of Aug. 30 and by 8 p.m. that evening, crews from Entergy had restored power to the front of campus. The back of campus still did not have power at press time.
Campus repair and clean-up work was in full swing throughout the day Aug. 31. A Southern Baptist Disaster Relief chainsaw crew from Alabama is scheduled to arrive Friday to assist with the clean-up.
"I am so grateful for SBC disaster relief. This Great Commission partnership of cooperation between local churches and their state conventions through the national network of the SBC is helpful beyond words and unmatched in the nation," Kelley said. "It is transforming the image of Southern Baptists in every community where disaster strikes."
Other SBC DR crews already are mobilized to help the hard-hit area in south Louisiana outside of the federal levee system. The parishes south and west of New Orleans face a long, difficult recovery process.
Kelley commended the U.S. Corps of Engineers for their work on the new levees and gates systems along Lake Pontchartrain. The $10 billion post-Katrina federal project was designed to stave off the type of storm surge that flooded the city and caused levee failures during Katrina.
"They held. Each piece did its job," Kelley said. "As a result the biggest issue was wind, not flooding. New Orleans is more protected against tropical weather than it has ever been. Thank you, America!"
"With our network of teaching centers all over the Southeast and the lessons learned from Katrina, we know we can keep on teaching whatever befalls us, Kelley said. "We are continuously training our faculty to stay in touch with their students from anywhere. We are NOBTS. We will find ways to teach and equip our students whatever our circumstances may be.
"This matters because we want our students to believe and know they will be able to do ministry wherever God sends them and in whatever circumstances God gives them to address," he continued. "The size of a wave may slow the progress of a boat, but it does not stop it."
Many have contacted the seminary looking for ways to help the campus and its students. "Those who would like to help us with our repair bill can give to the seminary's Providence Fund," Kelley said. "Those who would like to help students with unexpected evacuation expenses can mark their gifts 'Emergency Student Aid.' Giving may be done online or via postal mail."
Updates about the seminary's recovery and reopening status are available at www.nobts.edu. Updates are posted as needed and as soon as information is available.
Gary D. Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
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