Louisiana pastor, 68, killed in sleep after tree struck his home during Hurricane Laura

Pastor James Cart Jr.
Pastor James Cart Jr. was leader of First Baptist Church in Iota, La. |

Pastor James Cart Jr., leader of First Baptist Church in Iota, Louisiana, was among 18 people killed in the wake of Hurricane Laura last Thursday when a tree fell on his home as he slept through the storm. He was 68.

Bert Langley, director of missions with the Acadia Baptist Association, confirmed with the Baptist Press that the Southern Baptist Convention pastor died after a tree fell on his house in Acadia Parish around 2 a.m. Thursday. His wife had been tending to one of their grandchildren in the living room of their home when tragedy struck.

Carter, according to the Baptist Message, had been serving as a bivocational pastor of his small church of about 45 weekly worshipers since September 2011.

“We are heartbroken to learn of Pastor Cart’s death,” Louisiana Baptists Executive Director Steve Horn told the publication. “We urge all Louisiana Baptists to pray for his family and his church family.”

Langley said Cart loved to tell others about the love of Christ.

“He came back to pastor in the town he grew up in,” Langley said. “He loved his wife and family. He loved people. He loved his church. He will be missed by all who knew him.”

An obituary from Ardoin’s Funeral Homes said Cart, whose memorial service was held on Tuesday, moved back to Iota with his wife of 48 years, Elizabeth, after he retired.

“James was a wonderful provider and nurturer, an excellent husband and his family was everything to him. He will be missed by many, but none more than his wife of 48 years, Elizabeth Dianne Jackson Cart,” the obituary said of the late father of three.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said on Monday that with 324,000 power outages across the state and 600,000 people either without water or under boil water advisories, residents were in for a long recovery. The Associated Press also noted that stifling heat and humidity were adding to the trouble of clearing out debris, patching roofs and starting rebuilding work.

Hurricane Laura made landfall Thursday just south of Lake Charles near Cameron, Louisiana, as a powerful Category 4 storm with 150-mph winds and a storm surge as high as 15 feet.

Edwards' office told the AP that in the wake of the storm, 67,000 people have already registered for assistance from FEMA.

Collin Arnold, New Orleans’ emergency preparedness director, told the news agency that about 9,200 evacuees were housed across 33 hotels and the coronavirus has made managing them a lot more complicated.

“It’s extremely complicated,” Arnold said. “You’re dealing with 33 different properties and the amount of personnel required to have people at every property is pretty staggering … We would be congregate sheltering in any other hurricane season without COVID-19 hanging over our heads. We would be in large stadiums, arenas.”

James Townley, a survivor of the storm in Lake Charles who decided to stay in his battered home, said he ran out of out of medication for his heart and kidneys and had requested aid from FEMA but was still waiting for help.

“I’m just going to sit here and do what I can do,” said the 56-year-old. “Maybe I’ll make it, maybe I won’t.”

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