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Louisiana residents thankful for small miracles after Ida
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MARRERO, La. — Amid the devastation caused by Hurricane Ida, there was at least one bright light Sunday: Parishioners found that electricity had been restored to their church outside of New Orleans, a small improvement as residents of Louisiana struggle to regain some aspects of normal life.

In Jefferson Parish, the Rev. G. Amaldoss expected to celebrate Mass at St. Joachim Catholic Church in the parking lot, which was dotted with downed limbs. But when he swung open the doors of the church early Sunday, the sanctuary was bathed in light. That made an indoor service possible.

“Divine intervention,” Amaldoss said, pressing his hands together and looking toward the sky.

A week after Hurricane Ida struck, many in Louisiana continue to face food, water and gas shortages as well as power outages while battling heat and humidity. The storm was blamed for at least 17 deaths in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

On Sunday, state health officials announced that the death toll in Louisiana has climbed to 13, including a 74-year-old man who died of heat during an extensive power outage. In the Northeast, Ida’s remnants dumped record-breaking rain and killed at least 50 people from Virginia to Connecticut.

As Mass began Sunday, Amaldoss walked down the aisle of the church in his green robe, with just eight people spread among the pews. Instead, the seats brimmed with boxes of donated toothpaste, shampoo and canned vegetables.

“For all the people whose lives are saved and all the people whose lives are lost, we pray for them,” he said. “Remember the brothers and sisters driven by the wind and the water.”

Through the wall of windows behind the altar, beyond the swamp abutting the church, the floodgates that saved the building could be seen. The Gospel was the story of Jesus bringing sight to a blind man, and throughout the tiny church, stories of miracles were repeated.

Wynonia Lazaro gave thanks for newly restored power in her home, where the only casualties of Ida were some downed trees and loosened shingles.

“We are extremely blessed,” she said.

Some parishioners suffered total losses of their homes, or devastating damage. Gina Caulfield, a 64-year-old retired teacher, has been hopping from relative to relative after her cousin’s trailer, where she’d been living, was left uninhabitable. Still, she was grateful to have survived the storm.

“It’s a comfort to know we have people praying for us,” she said.

Some parishes outside New Orleans were battered for hours by winds of 100 mph or more, and Ida damaged or destroyed more than 22,000 power poles, more than hurricanes Katrina, Zeta and Delta combined.

More than 630,000 homes and businesses remained without power Sunday across southeast Louisiana, according to the state Public Service Commission. At the peak, 902,000 customers had lost power.

Fully restoring electricity to some places in the state’s southeast could take until the end of the month, according Phillip May, president and CEO of Entergy, which provides power to New Orleans and other areas in the storm’s path.

Entergy is in the process of acquiring air boats and other equipment needed to get power crews into swampy and marshy regions. May said many grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses are a high priority.

“We will continue to work until every last light is on,” he said during a briefing Sunday.

In Jean Lafitte, a small town of about 2,000 people, pools of water along the roadway were receding and some of the thick mud left behind was beginning to dry.

At St. Anthony Church, the 4 feet of water once inside had seeped away, but a slippery layer of muck remained. Outside, the faithful sat on folding metal chairs under a blue tent to celebrate Mass. Next door, at the Piggly Wiggly, military police in fatigues stood guard.

“In times such like these, we come together and we help one another,” the Rev. Luke Nguyen, the church’s pastor, told a few dozen congregants.

Ronny Dufrene, a 39-year-old oil field worker from Lafayette, returned to his hometown to help.

“People are taking pictures of where their houses used to be,” he said. “But this is a chance to get together and praise God for what we do have, and that’s each other.”

In New Orleans, many churches remained closed due to lingering power outages.

But First Grace United Methodist Church opened its doors and held service without power. Sunlight from large windows brightened the sanctuary, where about 10 people sat.

“Whatever situation you’re in, you get to choose how you see it,” said Pastor Shawn Anglim, whose first time pastoring the congregation was after the church recovered from Hurricane Katrina 16 years ago. “You can see it from a place of faith, a place of hope and a place of love, and a place of possibility.”

Jennifer Moss, who attended service with her husband, Tom, said power had been restored to their home on Saturday.

“We’ve been blessed throughout this entire ordeal,” she said. “That storm could have been a little closer to the east, and we wouldn’t have a place to come and worship.”

In Lafitte, about 28 miles south of New Orleans, animal control officer Koby Bellanger experienced his own little blessing after he heard the sounds of an animal crying as he rode through the flooded streets with a sheriff’s deputy.

Bellanger waded through the water and found a tiny, green-eyed black kitten clinging to the engine of a car outside a devastated house. He hoisted the animal up, to the delight of Lafayette Parish Deputy Rebecca Bobzin.

“Bring him!” Bobzin screamed in delight.

Louisiana’s 13 storm-related deaths included five nursing home residents evacuated ahead of the hurricane along with hundreds of other seniors to a warehouse in Louisiana, where health officials said conditions became unsafe. On Saturday, State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter ordered the immediate closure of the seven nursing facilities that sent residents to the warehouse.

Edwards was briefed Sunday about a cluster of thunderstorms near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, but said forecasters “don’t see much potential at all for it developing into a storm of any real significance and we’re very, very thankful for that.”

He said it does have the potential to bring some rain to coastal Louisiana and southeast Louisiana.

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Longview-area Jewish community welcomes new year with Rosh Hashanah services
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Longview-area Jewish communities are preparing to usher in a new year during the Rosh Hashanah holiday that begins at sundown Monday.

Rosh Hashanah, meaning Head of the Year, begins the High Holy Season, the holiest days on the Jewish calendar.

The holiday plays a key role in the coming days, known as the Ten Days of Repentance or Awe, and a person’s journey leading up to Yom Kippur. Jewish communities around the world will spend this time in reflection and pursuit of self-betterment.

The prayer-based holiday services involve a deep-rooted tradition of blowing a ram’s horn known as a shofar. The shofar blast has three distinct sections, the tekiah, shevarim and t’ruah, all with special significance. Tekiah is a single loud blast understood to be a call to attention, while shevarim is three broken blast that go up and down in tone. It sounds like crying, and some people believe that it is reminiscent of crying tears of sadness or joy at the passing of another year. Truah is a single blast followed by nine staccato or rapid fire blows. Some see this as an alarm clock to wake up souls for the coming year.

Other service traditions include using a designated prayer book and a special reading of the Torah that will be covered in white for the occasion.

Many families also will dip apples in honey. This sweet combination stems from an age-old Jewish tradition of eating sweet foods to express hope for a sweet new year.

Longview synagogue Temple Emanu-El has an additional reason to celebrate this year. The congregation met for the first time in more than a year late last month, and Rosh Hashanah will be the first holiday in person since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.

Temple Emanu-El administrator Rusty Milstein said he will be happy to celebrate in person, even if the numbers in attendance are small.

“It will be nice to meet as a congregation once again,” Milstein said. “These High Holidays are meaningful. At one time we would fill our 160 seat sanctuary, but just having services for 12 or so is carrying on tradition. Our congregation, even though we are small, we are still viable.”

Rusk resident Dana Philibert, who is a member of the Beth El congregation and travels to Tyler for services, said the holiday was an important one for her family.

“For us personally, it’s a reflection on this past troubling year, of conflict and illness, but at the same time, a time to turn the book of life with hopes of a fresh start to begin anew with family, friends and community,” Philibert said. “It’s about starting a new year with a clean slate and a heart full with resolutions for a better me — for my family and community.

“This year we will be celebrating, as most families do, by dipping apples into honey in hopes for a sweet upcoming year and enjoying braided bread known as challah twisted into a round shape to symbolize the circle of life,” she continued.

Rabbi Neal Katz of Beth El emphasized the importance of the season, the Rosh Hashanah holiday and the manner in which the community prays.

“This is one of the most important seasons of the year for our community. Rosh Hashanah kicks off the new calendar year and is celebrated with prayer, study, special foods, and the blast of the shofar (ram’s horn)” Katz said. “As we make our way into Yom Kippur 10 days later, we focus on repentance, forgiveness and ask for God’s mercy. One point that has always fascinated me is how our prayers of repentance use the word ‘we’ when we are asking for forgiveness. The idea that our sins are collective is a very powerful teaching. It emphasizes that we are all responsible for one another — for good and for bad. We are a small, very close-knit community, and we take this idea of collective identity seriously.”

Beth El, the oldest Jewish congregation in Smith County chartered in 1887, will be celebrating it 135th High Holy Season.

Rabbi Alan Learner, who leads Ahavath Achim Synagogue in Tyler, also said it was an important time of the year, one he was proud to share with his congregation.

“It is a time of reflection and introspection. The prayers and melodies are designed to stir us awake and return to God if we have strayed,” Learner said. “Many of these prayers and melodies come from a time of great challenges during the history of the Jewish people. Some are older than 900 years at this point. It’s truly an honor to be leading my Congregation in prayer during this time.”

The congregation was founded in 1898 by a group of Eastern European immigrants who wanted to maintain an Orthodox approach to Jewish life and worship in Tyler. The Congregation is in the third building of its history.

The next holiday of the Jewish High Holy Days will be Yom Kippur, which will begin at sundown Sept. 15. at 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm respectively. These services will also be available online.

Temple Emanu-El will have a covered dish dinner at 6:30 pm Monday followed by services at 8 p.m. and a morning service at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Police: Four shot dead in Houston house that was set ablaze
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HOUSTON — Firefighters found two adults and two children dead of apparent gunshot wounds after extinguishing a blaze at a home in Houston on Sunday.

There weren’t any signs of forced entry at the house in the southwest of the city and the fire, which was reported shortly after 8 a.m., may have been an attempt to destroy evidence or disguise something at the scene, Police Chief Troy Finner said during a news conference.

The dead were adults in their 50s and children who were apparently in the 10 to 13 age range, Finner said. He didn’t identify the dead, saying police hadn’t yet notified their family.

He said investigators believe the shootings were an act of domestic violence, but he didn’t say why they think that.

“It’s real sad,” he said. “When it’s innocent kids, it’s even more upsetting.”

Body recovered from pond believed to be missing Harrison County woman
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From Staff Reports

A body believed to be that of a missing Marshall woman has been recovered from a pond, the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office reported.

The body of Jessica Adair, 46, was recovered around noon Saturday from the pond near the residence where she was reported missing Aug. 30 on Harris Road, said Harrison County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Jay Webb.

Webb said Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace Judge Nancy George ordered the body be sent for an autopsy.

A $3,000 reward was offered Friday for information leading to Adair’s location.

Harrison County Sheriff Brandon “BJ” Fletcher offered his condolences to the Adair family.

“This is a tragic situation for the family, friends and for everyone involved in the search efforts to locate Ms. Adair,” Fletcher stated. “This office exhausted every resource in locating Ms. Adair, but rest assured this investigation will continue until the final report of the autopsy.

“The sheriff’s department and all who searched for her extend heartfelt condolences to her family and friends.”