In the 48 hours since Hurricane Ida hit southeastern Louisiana, Alberta Carter and her family had to leave two places they thought were safe. Carter called for hours as the waters rose around their home in Gray, as rescuers across the region struggled to reach hundreds of desperate families trapped like they were.
Hundreds of people took refuge in sparsely supplied evacuation centers in Lafourche Parish like Thibodaux High School during the worst of Hurricane Ida, fleeing destruction in Houma, Bayou Bouef and Thibodaux, seeking cover at the shelters through all hours of the night. Only a few dozen still remained by Tuesday, a mix of people waiting for a police escort to check damage at their homes or despairing over their futures after learning what they left behind was uninhabitable. When a breathless Lafourche Parish staffer informed Amanda Matis, the shelter coordinator, that more families were coming Monday, Matis looked too tired to panic.
At the time, cell service was still down and word of the outside world came only from the occasional satellite phone and visitors. As in most of southern Louisiana forecasted for a direct hit from Ida, Lafourche and Terrebonne Parish officials ordered all residents to evacuate.
People were urged to head for shelters set up farther north. Despite the risk of keeping staff and fleeing residents within Ida's impact zone, officials knew there would always be those who wouldn't — or couldn't — leave. Officers found Gravois — who has lived in the same trailer near Houma for 13 years — and brought her to the evacuation center on Sunday.
Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes lost power and cell service as Hurricane Ida tore through. I just knew I had to send her to safety.
Many other residents of Lafourche Parish survived the storm alone in their homes, or huddled with neighbors and family members in homes they judged most like to withstand wind or flood. The damage they survived was substantial, as Ida left behind ample, if surreal, evidence of her path.
Long strips of metal were ripped from gas station roofs and wrapped around poles halfway down the block. Cars navigated around wind-whipped traffic lights facing the wrong direction and power lines tilting uneasily in the wind.
Buildings in the downtown historic district lost windows, roofs and entire brick walls. Until local charities arrived late Monday and Tuesday morning with food, water, supplies and extra generators, people were stuck with what they brought with them and the limited food from Lafourche Parish staff had on hand.
Chuckling in disbelief, Steve Mason Jr. He and his trailer ended up spending the night in Thibodaux instead, watching the storm rage through the windows whenever it was safe. The high school was supposed to be a refuge of last resort, Matis emphasized, and everyone had to wait until it was safe for volunteers and first responders to drive on the road.
Families like Erica Boudreaux and her sons — who arrived from a flooded Kraemer with a neighbor — sprawled on blankets or jackets on the hard linoleum floor, or tried to relax in metal chairs. Small groups claimed different hallways and corners of the high school, separated by groups in an attempt to maintain social distancing measures.
While her two small daughters played around her, Jessica Hammontree said she had a Facebook post assuring friends she was safe ready to post with the first trickle of a cellphone al. The danger of the storm was gone, but many inside were anxious to return to homes or reach loved ones, or finally slow down.
Facebook Twitter. Nicole Foy Austin American-Statesman.
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Hurricane Ida aftermath: Destruction and death brought to Louisiana. Hurricane Ida left behind a path of death and destruction, with more than 1 million homes and businesses without power and two people confirmed dead.
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