As Hurricane Ida moves north through Mississippi, independent booksellers in southeast Louisiana are left to assess the damage caused by the storm, which made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane Sunday afternoon. Around one million customers are without power, including hundreds of thousands in New Orleans, and the city of New Orleans has advised evacuees to not return.
Elizabeth Barry Alquist, owner of Blue Cypress Books, posted on Facebook Monday morning that all of the bookstore's staff, as well as store cat Kitty Meow, are safe, but the store had sustained damage. One of the store's large, street-facing windows was shattered and the store's sign destroyed; Blue Cypress had moved into this new location earlier this month.
Later in the day, Blue Cypress posted an update and a link to a new GoFundMe campaign asking for $5,000 to help the store make repairs, pay its insurance premiums, cover clean-up costs and pay rent while the store is closed due to lack of power. In less than 24 hours the campaign has raised nearly $2,800.
"We love New Orleans, and we want to be here on the other side of this. We will do everything we can to make that happen, and we appreciate any help you can provide us either by donating through this GoFundMe or sharing it to your friends and family," Blue Cypress wrote.
Vera Warren, owner of Community Book Center, reported that she and her family evacuated to Atlanta, Ga., ahead of the storm, though some of her staff and their families remained. They, like the vast majority of those who remained in New Orleans, have no power, and it could be weeks until it is restored. Warren noted that the lack of power will obviously interrupt business, and she has been unable to learn yet whether the store itself has sustained any physical damage.
Candice Huber, owner of Tubby & Coo's Mid-City Bookshop, said on Twitter yesterday morning: "We are physically safe & evacuated. We haven't been able to get in touch with anyone yet to check on the store due to cell service & power being out, but we're hoping for the best." In the meantime, they said, customers can continue to support the store through Tubby & Coo's Bookshop and Libro.fm affiliate pages.
Huber later added: "We have heard from some sources that the bookstore building does not seem to have much damage. We'll check inside when we're able to get back to the city, but we're relieved that it seems OK!" She also advised customers that all orders will be delayed for the time being, as she is unsure when she'll be able to return to the store and when it will have power again. The current estimate is "2-3 weeks without power."
Tom Lowenburg, co-owner of Octavia Books, reported that "we are fine" and "the store is intact," though some staff members experienced "some damages to property." There is "no power expected for weeks" as a result of a transmission tower "toppling into the Mississippi River."
In Denham Springs, La., not far from Baton Rouge, Cavalier House Books and its warehouse are "100% fine," according to co-owner John Cavalier, though the power has gone out. He noted that he's managed to confirm that all but one of his staff members are safe, but he expects the current "very bad cell coverage" to be responsible for that.
Cavalier said he has "no clue when we'll have power," but from past experience power usually comes back on at the store before it comes back on at his home. The plan now is to just clean up and help neighbors whenever possible, and "we'll sweat all day and take cold showers at night." He hopes "all the pieces go back together easily," but the storm was "very slow-moving and the extent of all the damage is still unclear."
Booksellers affected by Hurricane Ida can turn to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation for emergency financial assistance; those looking to support booksellers can make donations to Binc.