View of Chalmette residential area
Chalmette is a census-designated place (CDP) in and the parish seat of St. Bernard Parish, in southeast Louisiana, United States. The 2010 census reported that Chalmette had 16,751 people and is 76 percent white. The 2011 population is listed as 17,119; however, the pre-Katrina population was 32,069 at the 2000 census. The population hence declined by 46 percent between 2000 and 2010. Chalmette is part of the New Orleans–Metairie–Kenner Metropolitan Statistical Area. Chalmette is located east of downtown New Orleans and south of Arabi, Louisiana, towards Lake Borgne.
The community was named after plantation owner Louis-Xavier Martin de Lino de Chalmette (1720-1755), whose surname is, in turn, derived from the French word "chalmette" (meaning "pasture land, fallow land") and has been traced to the Proto-Celtic word "*kalm".
HistoryChalmette was founded by plantation owner Louis-Xavier Martin de Lino de Chalmette (1720-1755), a native of Quebec and grandson of René-Louis Chartier de Lotbinière of Maison Lotbinière. His eldest son, Louis Xavier Martin de Lino de Chalmette (1753-1814) was born there and later married the sister of Antoine Philippe de Marigny, grandfather of Bernard de Marigny.
Hurricane KatrinaOn 29 August 2005, the 25-foot (7.6 m) storm surge from Hurricane Katrina overflowed through the Mississippi River – Gulf Outlet Canal (also commonly known as MRGO) - a commercial channel dug by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in the 1960's - and flooded most of the town, with waters as high as 14 to 15 feet (4.9 m) in some places. As a result, Chalmette was extensively swamped and nearly destroyed. A majority of the population evacuated shortly before the storm hit, but there was still significant loss of life.
As of 25 October 2005, most of the buildings were deemed unsaveable. Despite findings published by the U.S. EPA, the toxic chemicals in the water from local oil refineries have been postulated to be an ongoing health hazard by several civilian ecological groups. Especially notable was the large oil spill originating in Chalmette's large Murphy Oil facility, where the storm surge knocked over a huge oil tank (see photo below).
The parish administrative headquarters served as the site for a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailer park for numerous civil servants who were laboring in the rebuilding effort. A year later, parish employees were still working shifts around the clock to bring the community back to life.
Another center in the rebuilding effort was centered at the church of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, which served the congregations of the seven other Roman Catholic parishes as well as the main office of Catholic Relief Services. It also served as the only place to hold funerals for the first 12 months after Katrina.
FEMA trailer housing were still waiting as late as March 2006, 7 months after the hurricane.
The Chalmette Battlefield was also partially flooded in low-lying areas, destroying the Visitor's Center, which was removed for rebuilding, and temporarily replaced with a house trailer to attempt re-opening the park for visitors in 2007.