HURRICANE IDA: Local pastor remembers Katrina, houses evacuees from Ida

George Lee IV, pictured here with his wife Ciria and children McKenzie and Kingston, is pastor of The Springs church in Ruston.

George Lee IV was a 17-year-old New Orleans resident in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina swept through his city and neighborhood and devastated the area. Now, 16 years later and a resident of Grambling, he remembers that time as he houses his mom and grandmother, who are still New Orleans residents and evacuated from Hurricane Ida.

“My family decided to evacuate for Hurricane Katrina two days before the hurricane made landfall,” Lee, a pastor at The Springs church, said. “While the majority of my family decided to evacuate, my mom and I did not travel with the rest of my family. At the time, my mom was enrolled at the University of New Orleans, and we lived in an apartment on campus. We developed a strong relationship with our neighbor, who was a quadriplegic. When our neighbor’s family from North Louisiana decided to travel to get him, we were given an opportunity to evacuate with them.”

Lee said watching the news coverage from that time was surreal.

“Honestly, as I watched the news coverage, none of it seemed real. I felt numb,” he said. “I guess I was still processing it all. In some ways, even 16 years later, I’m still processing things. As days progressed, I did wrestle with thinking about family and friends who didn’t evacuate.”

While Lee’s family settled in Rayville after Katrina, he eventually made his way to Lincoln Parish after attending Louisiana Tech. Now he, his wife Ciria, and his two children, McKenzie and Kingston, live in Grambling and are active in ministry.

“I have stated often that I never want to move back to New Orleans,” Lee said. “My mother, along with the majority of my family, moved back to New Orleans. We are from the area of New Orleans known as Holy Grove — in the 17th ward of New Orleans uptown. I love Lincoln Parish because of its pace. Everything moves quickly in the city of New Orleans! I value the relationships here. Lincoln Parish is a close-knit community from what I’ve experienced. Lastly, our ministry is here, and I believe the Lord has called my family to minister to this community for the foreseeable future.”

Lee said last year’s Hurricane Laura that came through Lincoln Parish and this past weekend’s Hurricane Ida brought back many preparedness memories.

“As I think about our community battling Hurricane Laura last year and bracing ourselves (for) Hurricane Ida in South Louisiana and other states, I can’t help but play through the series of ‘hurricane protocol,’” he said. “You start thinking about gathering provisions, purchasing gas, installing generators and sending support to family who will be in the affected area. You really start thinking about loved ones.”

For now, though, as he houses relatives who are waiting to see what damage has occurred, he said he is happy his family is safe.

“As devastating as Hurricane Katrina was, I realize that God used that storm in my life to lead me to this community,” Lee said. “I attended school here, met my wife here, started serving in ministry here, built our family here. Good things can come out of bad situations. While my heart still breaks for those who lost loved ones in Hurricane Katrina, I grateful that it gave me an opportunity to be a part of another community — a community I’m not leaving any time soon.”

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