'We Don't Have Nowhere To Go': Predominately Black Louisiana City Destroyed By Hurricane Ida Still Unrecognizable
Residents are considering the possibility of leaving their homes behind.
October 29, 2021 at 5:15 pm
Two months after Hurricane Ida made landfall, a predominantly Black community in Louisiana remains devastated by the storm. With their properties destroyed and their lives turned upside-down, the residents of LaPlace, Louisiana, are considering the possibility of leaving the place they have known for much of their lives, NPR reports.
But most don't have any idea where to go.
"It's just overbearing to some people who thought they could handle this. And they never seen this. It's never impacted like this," 49-year-old LaPlace resident Donald Caesar Jr. told NPR. "We don't have nowhere to go, so we just have to deal with it, you know?"
Caesar said his uncle's house, which has been in the family for generations, is now completely unlivable. The roof is ripped off, mold is growing on the walls, the floors are wet and flies hover around the garbage.
Ida has also destroyed the tree planted by Caesar's grandfather about 100 years ago.
"It was always joyful to feel like a chimpanzee to try to climb it," Caesar said. "We used to run to try to climb it. This is where everybody came together. … The functions were in this yard."
St. John the Baptist Parish, where LaPlace is located, is among the areas that have not benefited from a federal levee protection system. As a result, the damage in the area was severe when the Category 4 storm landed.
"A week ago my mom caught a heart attack. She said [it was] stress," Caesar said. "She shouldn't have been back there so long. She's asking herself right now: should she leave? Should she just call it quits?"
Iglesia Pentecostal Providencia Divina, a church built roughly a decade ago, has been providing service to the migrants who have made a home at St. John the Baptist Parish. But the church is now damaged by the storm, with the entire back concrete-block wall ripped away by a tree that was uprooted when Ida landed.
"It was everything for us," Pastor Wanda Rivera told NPR.
Rivera established the church with her husband after coming to the mainland U.S. from St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Jaclyn Hotard, president of St. John the Baptist Parish, said contractors have been cleared to start building levees that will stand at about 12.5 feet, WDSU reports.
"The surge heights of Hurricane Ida were beneath the height of the levees. The projected heights. If the levee were constructed it would have prevented the flood damage," Hotard said.
The project is expected to be completed in 2024.
While some residents say the response from local government has been slow, Hotard told NPR that they "have been very responsive."
"I couldn't get to my own house, you know, for about four or five days after the storm," the president said. "We had about two feet of water in the house and my car flooded also. I can empathize with the residents and what they're going through."
Residents are also asking for help from FEMA. But public affairs officer John Mills told NPR that the agency doesn't give money to people who have home or flood insurance.
"A lot of people are going to rely on the good work of charitable voluntary and faith-based organizations that are actively working in a lot of communities," Mills said.