Of all the things they feared Hurricane Ida would bring to their small lagoon community, the death of one of their neighbors was surprisingly gruesome.
71-year-old man allegedly assaulted and killed by an alligator while checking floodwaters at his home in Slidell, near New Orleans.
His wife desperately tried to get help, but without electricity or a phone signal.
The inhabitants of the Avery estates, heavily forested and riddled with marshy streams, know that alligators are their neighbors too. It’s the price to pay for living amidst the rugged beauty, but it’s the stuff of nightmares.
As she hitchhiked in the back of a truck out of the flooded neighborhood, Paula Jacobsen shuddered at the news of what had happened to her neighbor.
“It really scared us because it’s only one road away from ours and the mere thought of an alligator roaming free here terrifies me.
“The thought of what happened to this poor guy is really sad. I can’t even imagine what he or she went through.”
Paula had heeded the warning and evacuated their home before Ida arrived. They learned the lessons when Hurricane Katrina flattened Slidell 16 years ago.
For Ida, Michelle Ross moved to the heights of her son’s house to escape the storm. The wife of the deceased man is a close friend.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “It is absolutely horrible, devastating.”
For hundreds of thousands of people in the New Orleans area, there are more fundamental concerns in the aftermath of Ida.
A city of 300,000 people could be without power for up to a month after the main power lines that span the Mississippi River and feed the city fall.
In a city that used to feel abandoned after natural disasters, Joe Biden’s promises that help would come cannot go so far in a sweltering summer humidity. No electricity means no air conditioning.
Crowds increased at gas stations as rumors spread that they might have a supply.
It is fortunate that the people of New Orleans are so well known for their resilience.
Halfway up a ladder on the way to fix her roof, Summer Fields laughed when asked what she thought of weeks without power.
“It’s a big mess and most people have left town, I think, because of the power outages,” she said.
“I just think there are a lot of people who are much worse than us.”
As if all of that weren’t enough to handle, Louisiana was already facing a wave of COVID cases even before Ida arrived.
Hospitals are full and health officials fear that people sheltering nearby or evacuating to other parts of the state could accelerate the spread. They are particularly concerned that vulnerable people will not even be able to get help.
Ida may not have caused the immediate and widespread destruction that was feared, but another kind of crisis for many people is unfolding in slow motion.