Hurricane Ida Leaves Indelible Mark in Louisiana

16 years after Katrina, residents face challenges of cleanup, rebuilding
August 31, 2021 Updated: September 1, 2021

The one thing Debbie Russel of LaPlace, Louisiana, remembers about Hurricane Ida is the wind—“It was unreal.”

“The wind was so strong,” she said. “We just got in the hall and prayed. I had my hands over my ears—the wind.”

With gusts blasting in at 150 miles per hour, the Category 4 storm made landfall on Aug. 29, knocking down trees and utility poles, ripping roofs off buildings, flooding basements, and leaving more than 1 million residents throughout Louisiana without power.

The storm has been downgraded to a tropical depression on Aug. 31, and is expected to weaken as it moves further inland, according to the National Weather Service.

Epoch Times Photo
Power company workers from South Carolina and Texas wait in a mall parking lot to be assigned an area to fix, in Baton Rouge, La., on Aug. 31, 2021. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Russel said none of her neighbors currently has running water, which had to be turned off because of sewage backup.

“If we could just get water back, that would be a big help,” Russel told The Epoch Times.

After witnessing other major hurricanes over the past 25 years, Russel can attest to the power of the weather—and water.

“Water is very powerful. I mean, it can just wipe you out,” she said.

Across the road, workers were cutting up and removing a tree that went through the roof of another house. The owners had evacuated, and haven’t seen the damage firsthand yet.

Hurricane Ida is “the worst I’ve seen—worse than Katrina, damage-wise” said Ferrel Bailey, 78, who owns a shrimp shop.

The storm left 18 inches of water throughout the shop, which now has no electricity.

Epoch Times Photo
Ferrel Bailey, 78, cleans up after Hurricane Ida hit his shrimp shop on Main Street in LaPlace, La., on Aug. 31, 2021. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

“I went through [Hurricane] Isaac—I think that was 2012—and had seven inches of water through my house,” Bailey told The Epoch Times. “[The] house was two stories, so I lived upstairs while they rebuilt it.

“I’m not worried about it. I’m too old to worry. I’ve got insurance.”

Seen from the highway, Bailey’s house has an 8-by-8-foot hole at the gable on top. He said he won’t know the full extent of the damage until he gets to the house.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), roughly 3,600 employees have been deployed through hurricane-stricken states, including Louisiana and Mississippi, to give help as needed.

On Aug. 30, FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell addressed the dangerous conditions for those in the path of the storm.

“The state has shelters set up across the state right now. We’re also prepared to move people into hotels, until they can get back into their homes safely or identify other long-term solutions,” Criswell said in a statement.

Epoch Times Photo
A tree smashed into a house during Hurricane Ida on Aug. 29, in St John Parish, La., on Aug. 31, 2021. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
Epoch Times Photo
Power lines are down and businesses are damaged after Hurricane Ida swept through, in LaPlace, La., on Aug. 31, 2021. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Criswell said initial reports show collapsed buildings and major structural damage on many buildings across Louisiana.

In New Orleans, Mayor LaToya Cantrell advised residents who couldn’t evacuate ahead of the storm to shelter in place.

“We’re seeing some barges and some vessels that may have been broken loose and we’re also experiencing over a million power outages right at the moment,” Criswell said. “The state has search and rescue teams either in place right now rescuing or ready to go out at first light. This is significant. There is major damage. We’ve got a lot of resources in place to support the state, and they’ll be going out as soon as it’s safe to do so.”

President Joe Biden has issued a major disaster declaration for Louisiana that will enable local recovery and cleanup efforts, and provide funding.

Celestino Greco of Texas Tree Specialists and her team of eight drove from Spring, Texas, so they could be ready for the cleanup. They left the night of Aug. 28, and stayed on I-10 and Highway 12 the next night.

Epoch Times Photo
Celestina Greco (C) works with her crew to remove a tree from a house after Hurricane Ida swept through, in St John Parish, La., on Aug. 31, 2021. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
Epoch Times Photo
A UHaul truck lies in a ditch after Hurricane Ida swept through, in LaPlace, La., on Aug. 31, 2021. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

On the morning of Aug. 30, the crew arrived in LaPlace and got to work on houses with trees on them.

Greco said the team expects to be busy for at least a week.

Meanwhile, LaPlace resident Gabby Dunn, 31, said on Aug. 31 that she’s determined to find a way to Texas, even though her car is running on empty.

Dunn said she plans to stay with her brother in Houston. The back seat is full of her belongings.

“If I had a full tank, I would have been out of here already,” Dunn told The Epoch Times.“There’s nothing for us to do here, so let’s go and try somewhere else.”

Epoch Times Photo
Gabby Dunn and her cousin are trying to find gas so Gabby can get to Texas after Hurricane Ida left her with no power or water, in LaPlace on Aug. 31, 2021. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Like her neighbors, Dunn said there’s no water in her house. She said it could be a month before water and power are restored.

“Yesterday [Aug. 30] was horrible. It was hot. We slept in the garage,” said Dunn, who hopes to never experience another Ida, her first big hurricane.

“The noise,” she said. “It was like someone was whistling.”

Allan Stein
Allan Stein
Allan Stein is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Arizona.
Charlotte Cuthbertson
Charlotte Cuthbertson
Senior Reporter
Charlotte Cuthbertson is a senior reporter with The Epoch Times who primarily covers border security and the opioid crisis.