Somewhere between 24 to 36 hours after Katrina made landfall, Pastor Jeff Ulmer of New Life Family Church returned to the 150-foot diameter dome church to assess damages.
After finding the building to be structurally sound, he quickly opened church doors to relief workers. New Life is located just two blocks from the beach in Biloxi, Mississippi and is now serving as a shelter for Relief Workers.
The main concern for any buildings left standing is mold. Due to power outages and excessive moisture, all buildings are susceptible to mold growth at this time. Church Administrator Holly Wilson wasn’t complaining though. She said, “The dome is the second tallest building still standing in Biloxi.”
The Biloxi scene
Rapid Hope is a nonprofit, FEMA-funded relief organization out of Fort Worth, whose primary mission is to provide humanitarian relief support (medical care, food, water) for victims of natural disaster and human tragedy.
They were on the scene in Biloxi on September 2nd and quick to set up within the dome. Because their efforts are FEMA funded, they were able to make arrangements for a large generator. According to the Rapha website, “Johnny Jordan, of Rapid Hope International left September 2nd and is on the ground in Biloxi, Mississippi. A team of medical personnel are giving medical aid, counseling and food….”
Holly said, “New Life’s congregation consists of 250 people. Of those 250 members, 50 lost their homes. Because of the dome, we have been able to help people and hold services consistently since the hurricane. At first we held them outside due to lack of power, but now we have full power, we are holding them indoors. We are so blessed. The dome has served us well.”
Holly continues, “I don’t know if there’s been a lot of questions about the dome cause I have been out of town, but anything that is left standing, people want to know about it.”
David South, president of Monolithic, said, "This disaster proves again how important it is for every community to have a Monolithic Dome before and after a disaster.
“With rebuilding on the minds of many coastal residents, we hope this dome’s survival sends a very clear message to builders, architects, FEMA, government officials, and home owners about the strength and survivability of a Monolithic Dome.”
Editor’s note: New Life Family Church was not used as a disaster shelter before or during the storm because all cities south of Interstate 10 had a mandatory evacuation order.
Note: We first presented this article in September 2005.