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Hurricane Ida devastation persists in Louisiana 1 month later

IRONTON, Louisiana (AP) – The land on which Audrey Trufant Salvant’s home sits in the small town of Ironton, Louisiana has become an island in a sea of ​​snake-infested mud and swamp grasses. Neighboring houses are disconnected from their foundations, a refrigerator is housed on the side in a tree, and dozens of coffins and graves from two nearby cemeteries are strewn across the lawns for blocks. The whole town has no electricity and running water.

A month after Hurricane Ida hit the coast with winds of 150 mph (241 km / h), communities throughout the state’s southeast coast – Ironton, Grand Isle, Houma , Lafitte and Barataria – still suffering from the devastating effects of the Category 4 storm.

Many, like Trufant Salvant, live with relatives until they can return home. Others are staying in hotels or have left the state, she said. Some residents have returned to retrieve the few possessions that may have survived the flooding, but she says they can’t find much to salvage – the storm surge Ida generated has reached the roofs of some houses.

“The day they let people come back here, it was like a funeral,” she said. “Everyone was heartbroken because we had seen the devastation before … but we had never seen anything like it.”

Churches and charities are scrambling to help, but the destruction is so great that there doesn’t seem to be enough donations for everyone, said Michael Williamson, United Way chief of Southeast Louisiana , which covers seven parishes affected by Ida.

The storage room at United Way’s New Orleans headquarters – usually filled with donated food, water, tarps and cleaning supplies for residents of storm-stricken communities – is nearly empty. Donations have been slow to arrive compared to previous storms, even smaller ones, and there aren’t enough to meet demand, Williamson said.

When it comes to tarps and cleaning supplies – bleach, buckets, mops and rakes – “we can’t have enough,” he said.

The United Way is also handling unique cases, including that of firefighter Warren Myers, whose 5-year-old daughter with special needs, Ameah, needs a specific formula given through a feeding tube, medication to control seizures and diapers. , which are all expensive. and have been difficult to obtain since Ida.

Store shelves weren’t as well stocked and deliveries didn’t arrive as smoothly as usual, said Crystal Hagger, Myers’ fiancee, who helps take care of Ameah.

Ameah is unable to stand or walk on her own, so the couple carry her around everywhere, in their arms or on their backs with a harness-type baby carrier.

The family recently learned that the United Way has found a donor willing to adapt Ameah to a pediatric wheelchair.

“Every little act of kindness goes a long way,” Hagger said, his voice choked with emotion. “We are very grateful.”

The need is visible everywhere.

In Ironton, Trufant Salvant’s house is one of eight houses in his neighborhood that is not submerged by Ida’s floodwaters. After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, she was able to raise her house, which now stands 12 feet (3.6 meters) from the ground. She spoke to a visitor as she sat on a stool in a small area under the house that had been cleared of mud and debris.

Other neighboring houses had completely moved or left their foundations. A house landed in the middle of the street after the waters receded.

“This one hit us more than Katrina,” she said.

Williamson says Ida’s recovery will be long – years for some. Families who were able to return are in various stages of cleaning up as they wait for adjusters to assess the damage and federal aid funds to arrive.

Justin and Lesley Landry from Lafitte hope to receive grants to raise their house, which was built about 2 feet (0.61 meters) from the ground in the 1980s and had never been flooded until Ida.

The couple married on August 29, 2020, a year to the day before the storm. Ida’s birthday present: almost two feet of water in their house. Water lines on the exterior walls and on the walls of a nearby shed indicate that Ida’s floodwaters rose at one point to about 4 feet (1.2 meters), which is up to the mark. chest for Justin. At the height of the storm, the tidal wave was probably even higher than that, he said.

Four days passed before the Landrys could return home to retrieve the few possessions spared in the three-bedroom home, including a handful of unopened wedding gifts that were on an upper shelf in one of the cupboards.

Justin and a friend dismantled the sections of the house that were flooded or growing mold, which was the bottom 4 feet of each wall. He said the most painful part was emptying his daughter’s nursery, which he had just finished setting up before Ida knocked. The freshly painted pastel blue walls are now half gone, and the bottoms of the flowing white curtains have been tinted brown by the muddy floodwaters. Baby Adley arrived two weeks ago.

“I try to stay positive,” said Justin. “Some people don’t even have a home anymore.

Despite the prolonged hardship caused by the storm, Trufant Salvant said she could not consider living elsewhere. She belongs to the fifth generation of a family that has resided in her small parish town of Plaquemines for over 200 years. The cemetery contains the remains of several of her relatives, including a brother who was buried just a day before Ida reached land.

“As terrible as it leaves you right now, when it happens… it’s home,” she said. “I just feel that earthly connection with this piece of property.”

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