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Weathering the Storm
2/1/2006
The record loss wrought by Hurricane Katrina will be a brick wall equal to thousands of courthouse fires.
To future genealogists, the record loss wrought by Hurricane Katrina will be a brick wall equal to thousands of courthouse fires. The harm to Gulf Coast historic structures is just as profound. “We all know Katrina is one of the greatest human tragedies in the nation's history—but it also could be the greatest cultural catastrophe America has ever experienced,” says Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation <www.nationaltrust.org>.

In New Orleans alone, a local commission determined 115 buildings in seven historic districts are seriously damaged and 56 more are compromised. Elsewhere in the Gulf, buildings such as Beauvoir <www. beauvoir.org>, the Biloxi, Miss., home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, were devastated.

The New Orleans Public Library's (NOPL) <nutrias.org/welcome.html> main branch fared relatively well considering its position directly in the storm's path: Except for the Technology Center, water damage was minor. But eight of the system's 12 branches must be gutted or rebuilt, pushing the library's preliminary recovery estimate to $17.5 million. NOPL's Web site came back online in October with most of its content, plus photos of damage and weekly recovery updates.

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