Metairie is a census-designated place (CDP) in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, United States and is a major part of the New Orleans Metropolitan Area. Metairie is the largest community in Jefferson Parish. It is an unincorporated area that would be larger than most of the state's cities if it were incorporated. The zip codes that serve the community are 70001-70006.
Métairie is the French term for a small tenant farm which paid the landlord with a share of the produce (sharecropping). In the 1760s, many of the original French farmers were tenants; after the American Civil War, the majority of the community's inhabitants were sharecroppers until urbanization starting in the 1910s.
In the 1720s French explorers became the first Europeans to settle Metairie in the area known as Metairie Ridge, a natural levee formed by an ancient branch of the Mississippi River which flowed through modern-day River Ridge, Metairie, Gentilly, and New Orleans East. It emptied into Mississippi Sound. The Acolapissa Native Americans used this ridge as a road, and it is the oldest road in the New Orleans area. Paved in the 1920s, it is called Metairie Road. An electric streetcar was installed running along Metairie Road in the late 1910s, opening the area to greater development. Upscale housing tracts were constructed off the road in the 1920s; this area is now known as "Old Metairie." It is today the most prestigious area of Metairie. The areas to the north and northwest of Metairie Road were not developed until after World War II. The land between Metairie Ridge and Lake Pontchartrain, which was cypress swamps and marshlands, was drained with the Wood Pump. With development of this new land for residences, Metairie's population grew in the 1940s as a result of cheaper land, lower taxes, and larger lots than in Orleans Parish.
In 1990, Metairie made history when one of its districts elected white supremacist David Duke to the Louisiana state legislature for a single term. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused a new migration from Orleans Parish, because housing was needed to replace what had been destroyed in the flooding of the city. It has been a racially neutral migration, with equal numbers of black and white residents moving to Jefferson Parish. The 2010 Census showed that Metairie has increasingly become more diverse.
Veterans Boulevard was laid out alongside a drainage canal, and became a commercial center of the region. The Central Business District of Metairie is located on Causeway Blvd near Lake Pontchartrain. Metairie also has one of the handful of major malls located in the New Orleans metro area. Lakeside Shopping Center is the highest-grossing mall in the New Orleans metropolitan area. In the 1970s and early 1980s, an area of bars and nightclubs opened in a section of Metairie known as "Fat City." Fat City is now the most racially diverse area in the New Orleans Metropolitan Area and is home to a vibrant restaurant scene. Several New Orleans radio and television stations have transmitter facilities in Metairie and Jefferson Parish; two of them, WGNO-TV and WNOL, now have studios and main offices in Metairie. Metairie has a large Mardi Gras season that touts itself as more family-friendly than the New Orleans Mardi Gras.
Fort Lauderdale Hurricane
The 1947 Fort Lauderdale Hurricane with winds of 125 mph (195 km/h) directly hit Metairie. Much of the community was under six feet of water.
Hurricane Betsy, a category three storm, hit the area in 1965, causing extensive wind damage and moderate flooding.
Flood of 1995
The May 8th 1995 Louisiana Flood, which dumped upwards of twenty inches of rain into Metairie in a twelve-hour period, flooded some parts of the region, especially areas south and west of Metairie, including Kenner, Harahan, and River Ridge.
On August 29, 2005, Metairie was hit hard by the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, including widespread wind damage and flooding. There were 29 reported deaths related to Katrina in Metairie. According to satellite images and flood maps, upwards of 75% of Metairie was flooded. Initial insured damages in Metairie are between 3 and 5 billion US dollars. The death toll and damage were less in Metairie than in bordering Orleans Parish, largely because the Metairie side of the 17th Street Canal did not breach, and most residents had already evacuated.
Residents were given a mandatory evacuation on August 28, 2005, the first time one has ever been ordered. Residents were not allowed to return until September 4. then residents were allowed to the area only to visit their homes or business between 7AM and 6PM. Residents were not allowed to return for longer until September 15, 2005. This period of over two weeks in exile angered many residents, especially those whose homes flooded. As the owners were unable to empty the houses of water, the structures suffered more damage.
Metairie was used as a staging area to evacuate people from New Orleans. The most organized effort took place where Causeway intersects I-10. There evacuees gathered or were brought to wait for buses.
The flooding in Metairie had three causes:
Many Metairie residents are joining a class action lawsuit against Aaron Broussard because of his removal of pump operators. Other residents have attempted to recall and remove Broussard as Parish President for what they see as negligence, but they failed to get the support and signatures needed.
Broussard resigned his position on January 8, 2010 in the face of a grand jury investigation of his staff.