Hurricane Katrina--The Chastain Connection


On Monday morning, August 29, 2005, New Orleans and the gulf coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans is not an area of high concentration for Chastains, though it is the origin in America for the Chastang families. Francois Chastang, a Frenchman, was married in New Orleans about 1700. His son, also named Francois, lived in New Orleans and had three children in the 1730s--two sons and a daughter. However, the sons moved from New Orleans to the Mobile area of Alabama, so that Mobile, rather than New Orleans, became the center for Chastangs. Here is how a number of Chastain-related individuals became involved with Hurricane Katrina.

Drew Chastain was in New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina approached. He taught philosophy at Tulane University and other Universities in New Orleans. On Saturday night, August 27, he informed relatives in Central Florida that he planned to wait out the storm in his second story apartment in the Lower Garden District. However, by morning, forecasts had changed to the point that Drew and some friends left by van some 20 hours before Katrina reached the city.

Others did not get out of the way in time. One such was infant Jenna-Ray Chasteen of hard-hit Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Her home was destroyed, and in the first days after Katrina she crowded into a kind neighbor's home along with eight other families.

Bill Chastain, a sports writer who covers the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, reported that one of the players, Tim Corcoran, could not reach his girlfriend in Covington, Louisiana on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Finally, after almost three days, she was able to contact him by text message.

In Mobile, Alabama, the roof of Chastang Middle School "peeled off like a can of sardines." Though safe water was restored rapidly to most of the Mobile area, Chastang, Alabama, north of Mobile was under a boil water order at least through September 3.

The Tulane University basketball team was relocated to Texas A&M University to continue classes. The home of Kory Castine, the only team member from New Orleans, was reported to have suffered minor damage.

People used the MSNBC website to find friends and loved ones. Among those looked for were Bea Castaing, Eddie Castaing, Ernie Castaing, Jack Castaing, Jo Ann Castaing, Stacy Castaing, Anita Castine, Leroy Castine, Margaret Castine, Noreen Chastain, Paula Chastain, Abijah Chasteen, and Jerry Chasteen. On another site, people were looking for Connie Castaing, and Joe and Heather Castaing. On yet another site, relatives are seeking Mike and Karen Chesteen, who were riding out Katrina in their home in Lucedale, Mississippi.

Abijah Nelson Chasteen, of Pass Christian/Bay St Louis could not be located, so his daughter posted a search for him on the Red Cross list. Similarly, Miriam Chastang, a nun from New Orleans is sought by her niece, and Leroy Castine of New Orleans is sought by his daughter.

On the other hand, we learn that Eddie Castaing and Mary Chastain are safe.

New Orleans has a strong music community. Until other survivor lists began to catch up, Larry Chastain took it upon himself to compile a list of music community survivors for Real Blues Magazine.

As soon as Katrina struck, Carol Chastang, spokesperson for the Small Business Administration (SBA), began getting the word out on how businesses should go about applying for federal disaster loans through the SBA. Her office has worked non-stop since Katrina hit. Linda Earley Chastang of the NAFEO, is helping to assist students of Historically Black Universities, especially those of Xavier and Dillard Universities.

The nation responded generously to the crisis. In Stamford, New York, Claire Chastaine was horrified at the idea of people living in football stadiums and organized a campaign for towns and villages to adopt families who had lost homes. In Kentucky, Arnold Chasteen, owner of Eagle Trucking, responded to a call for tractor-trailer rigs to be filled with needed supplies for affected areas. He also used the parking lot of his restaurant as a staging area for one of the trailers.

Chastang's Bayou City Ford of Houston, Texas offered to hire any evacuee qualified to be a Ford Truck technician. Dennett's Wharf Restaurant in Castine, Maine, took down the $9300 in one-dollar bills that had been tacked to the ceiling by customers over the years and donated it to Katrina relief. On September 6, AP photographer, Mary Ann Chastain, photographed South Carolina's Governor reporting that state's readiness to accept Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

Firefighter Dave Chastain, from the state of Washington, contributed his skills and training. He shipped out with fellow firefighters to be integrated into official relief operations. Captain Carroll Chastain, a ranger from East Ellijay, Georgia was assigned patrol duty to find and evacuate survivors. From Castine, Maine, The Maine Maritime Academy's training ship, The State of Maine, left for the port of New Orleans to serve as a dormitory for workers repairing oil refinery operations.

Many planned events were cancelled due to the storm and its aftereffects. The Citronelle High School football team, where Perry Chestang is quarterback, just north of Mobile, Alabama, missed their September 2 game, but were able to play on September 10. Among cancellations was the Pierre Chastain Family Association reunion, planned for September 24 in North Georgia. At least one event received a boost from Katrina. Tamara Chastain, organizer of the Disaster Preparedness Event in Salem, New Jersey, said it was now even more important in the light of Katrina.

Dianne Castano of New Orleans evacuated to Houston, but she was not allowed to rest. As Hurricane Rita bore down on the area, Dianne fled once again. Salvation Army Maj. Jack Chastain of Pitt County, North Carolina, said that though several Salvation Army volunteers had just returned after helping with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, some were leaving to assist with Rita. Meanwhile, KVAL's Carla Castano interviewed Katrina evacuees in Oregon.

In the aftermath of the hurricanes, Ron Chatagnier, hired to clean up Tulane Hospital, said the first floor is pretty much a total loss due to the mold. In Baton Rouge, Dr. Curt Chastain proposed a plan to absorb doctors from New Orleans into Baton Rouge permanently. And the SBA's Carol Chastang denied news reports that new computers were delaying checks to Katrina victims.

In February of 2006, mail service was finally restored to St. Bernard Parish, but Jim Chastain of Chalmette, who has been staying with friends in Madisonville, said he is “probably not” coming back to St. Bernard Parish after living there since 1963. Chastain said he likely will settle in St. Tammany Parish, where his two grandchildren live. His Chalmette home took on 10 feet of flood water during Katrina.

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