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Hurricane veterans were stunned by Ida: “It has never been so bad”


JEFFERSON PARISH, Louisiana – Jordan Roque pulled his Chevy pickup truck on the last stretch of freeway outside of town that was not inundated with water on Monday, pulling an airboat. Hurricane Ida had turned the road into a makeshift boat launch and Mr. Roque was on a mission to find his loved ones.

Her aunt and uncle, Diane and Buddy Nolan, had weathered the fierce Category 4 storm at home in the rustic fishing village of Jean Lafitte. No one had heard from the Nolans since Sunday morning, and now the village, along with much of the bayou region of southeast Louisiana, was underwater.

Authorities rescued more than 70 people in Jean Lafitte and surrounding communities, said Cynthia Lee Sheng, president of Jefferson Parish, after eight feet of water passed the dikes, sending several hundred people into attics. and on the roofs. At least one person, an older woman, has died in her home, Ms. Lee Sheng said. The parish had received more than 200 calls for help since Sunday.

On the way to the destruction of Ida, residents of the northern Gulf Coast, weary of inclement weather and storms, walked out of flooded communities on Monday and assessed the damage caused by one of the most formidable hurricanes yet to be had hit the area since Katrina 16 years ago. New Orleans and its hardened storm-control infrastructure seemed to have held up, even though the city had no electricity. But with parts of Louisiana still inaccessible, the full extent of the wreckage has remained uncertain.

“It has never been as bad as this time,” said Jesse Touro, 62, who was rescued from Jean Lafitte after going through storms in town for the past 12 years. He looked exhausted as he took a church bus to find some sort of shelter. “None of them like this one,” he repeated.

Several small towns in the southern half of the parish, outside the giant storm protection system encircling New Orleans and some of its suburbs, have been inundated. Dozens of residents watched the rising floodwaters, awaiting rescues that did not begin until dawn.

New Orleans itself had been bruised but not beaten. Tree branches and debris have blocked the streets of the Bywater neighborhood of Uptown. In the French Quarter, the streets appeared to have been washed almost clean. A few New Orleans residents had started venturing out to walk their dogs, cycle and assess the state of affairs early Monday. Although the city looked solid and dry on the outside, there were a lot of issues going on inside, where the lights could be out for days.

In Houma, a small town about 100 kilometers southwest of New Orleans, Craig Adams, 53, had planned to spend Saturday night in his beige trailer, but his daughter begged him at 9 p.m. he arrival of the storm was imminent, to seek refuge somewhere. more robust. On Monday, he was grateful that she did. The two-bedroom trailer was destroyed with only the air conditioner intact among piles of mutilated furniture, kitchen supplies and personal effects.

“Every little thing I owned and had, it’s gone,” Mr. Adams said. “I’m going to have to start all over again. You always see other people going through this on the news. You never think it will be you – until it does.

Grand Isle, a narrow beach islet of stilt houses facing the Gulf of Mexico near where Ida landed, was not accessible by road, which was underwater, or by air, because there was nowhere a helicopter could land, said Sheriff Joseph P. Lopinto III of Jefferson Parish.

He sent the helicopter anyway to see if he could spot his 10 deputies who remained in a bunker on the island during the storm. There were reports that her roof had blown. But MPs approved the helicopter crew on Monday, Sheriff Lopinto said in a WWL radio interview. He told the New York Times he could ask his team to drop radios by helicopter so MPs on the island can communicate.

Ms. Lee Sheng estimated that around 40 people chose not to evacuate Grand Isle.

In Jean Lafitte, a village of about 2,000 inhabitants, about 400 inhabitants initially refused the compulsory evacuation order, according to the sheriff. But he expected less to actually stay after they saw Ida’s strength.

“We did rescue missions today,” Sheriff Lopinto said. “But the water has stabilized. It doesn’t come anymore. In fact, he is backing down.

Some of those who stayed still had no intention of leaving. Cody Lauricella, 30, from bayou country, sailed all day on the 19ft fishing trawler he usually uses to catch trout and plaice all the way to Jean Lafitte to help people out go out. He went so far as to lower Lafitte, he said, but found few takers for a boat ride.

“There are a lot of people who are still there and okay, sitting on the porch, greeting us,” Sheriff Lopinto said. “It’s part of life in this community. They understand it.

Mr. Roque was certain that his aunt and uncle, whom he affectionately called “hippies”, would be fine. “They have a good knowledge of what they are doing,” he said. Their house, like others in the village, was on high ground, and their neighbor had a boat.

But he was still worried.

“They were stubborn – everyone told them to leave, but they were like, ‘Oh, we’re staying,'” said Mr. Roque, 23. “We just want to make sure.”

LaPlace, a town of quiet subdivisions on the east side of the Mississippi River where many evacuees from New Orleans settled after Katrina, has seen many of these houses mutilated and the streets flooded by Ida. On Whitlow Court, a bunch of mobile homes, every truck trying to roll down the street has created a wake. The water was out. Electricity too. No one had cell phone service.

David Sanford, who has lived in the neighborhood for eight years, considered himself a hurricane veteran, having lived on the Florida coast in Pensacola before moving to Louisiana. Despite everything, Ida terrified him. The storm rocked her mobile home – then she blew up a skylight above the bathroom, pouring water inside.

“It was just difficult,” said Sanford, 64, sitting on a dry corner at the end of the street on Monday. “This one here was the worst I’ve been in.” The wind howled, he said, and never seemed to stop. “It hasn’t slowed down at all,” he said.

Lea Joseph took her children to try to sleep in the shaking car once the power was cut; the wind lashed his house, uprooted the trees and tore the shingles from the roof.

“I felt bad because I should have left with my children,” she said. “I’m scared. My son is crying. He kept asking, ‘When does the eye pass, when does he pass the eye?’

His 13-year-old son, Cesar, showed videos he shared with friends on Snapchat of the wind and water descending on the family home. Inside, her 11-year-old brother, Juan, kept shouting, “Hold the door, hold the door,” terrified by the gusts of the storm.

“I was crying,” Juan recalls as he stood in the flooded street, the water splashing over his rubber boots.

“Never again,” Ms. Joseph said. “Never again.”

Richard Fausset reported from Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, Rick rojas from LaPlace, Louisiana, and Patricia mazzei from Miami. Edgar Sandoval contributed reporting from Houma, La.



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