Tiffany Guidry stands outside the sno-ball stand she owns in LaPlace, La. following Hurricane Ida. (Photo by Julie O’Donoghue/Louisiana Illuminator)
Tiffany Guidry said she’ll always remember the wind from Hurricane Ida.
She rode out the storm Sunday in her house along Airline Highway in LaPlace. On Monday evening, there was still four inches of water surrounding her home and the sno-ball stand that she runs next door. The storm had ripped off parts of the roofs on her home and business. A few uprooted trees were strewn about her yard.
With winds clocking in at 150 miles an hour — and gusts reportedly of up to 180 miles an hour — Ida was one of the strongest storms ever to hit the nation when it barreled ashore Sunday afternoon.
“I’ve never experienced wind like that,” she said. “I wasn’t really concerned about the wind — until the wind started.”
But Guidry considers herself lucky. There may be standing water around her home and in parts of her subdivision, but most of it hadn’t managed to get into her house or business yet. The water damage to her sno-ball stand was caused by rain that came through the ceiling when parts of the roof were ripped off. It won’t be as hard to clean up as flood water, she said.
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The people on the other side of Airline Highway weren’t so lucky. Those homes took on several feet of water. Hurricane Ida, Guidry said, was the worst storm she had ever seen hit LaPlace. It was even worse than Hurricane Isaac in 2012, when thousands of unsuspecting LaPlace residents were flooded out of their houses.
Ida caused massive upheaval across southeastern Louisiana that is expected to last for several weeks, but the state’s most densely populated areas were largely spared from flooding.
New Orleans and its inner suburbs are struggling with power and water services — a problem that could last for a few weeks — but the $14.5 billion levee and floodgate protection system that was upgraded after Hurricane Katrina succeeded in keeping New Orleans and its neighboring parishes mostly dry.
“We don’t believe we had a single levee that actually failed,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards Monday afternoon.
The same cannot be said for communities, like LaPlace, that are located immediately outside of that storm-protection system and don’t benefit from its security. By Monday morning, many residents in LaPlace — located 30 miles north of New Orleans and west of Lake Pontchartrain — had to be extricated from their homes as the water rose. A levee to protect the community from floodwaters is under construction, but hasn’t been finished yet.
State officials said some people in LaPlace had to be retrieved from the air — using what they call a “hoist and lift” operation. On Monday, the Louisiana National Guard rescued 191 people and 27 pets across Jefferson, Orleans and St. John the Baptist, where LaPlace is located.
LaPlace was not only dealing with flooding, but like the rest of southeastern Louisiana, it was without power, water and mobile phone service Monday. The governor said Monday evening that more than million homes and businesses in Louisiana are without power and 312,000 people don’t have access to running water.
The situation is so dire that several elected officials — including Edwards — told people who evacuated not to return to their homes until their local government officials say it is ok to do so.
“Quite frankly, we need to put as little demand on our water systems and our electric grid as possible,” Edwards said.
Ronnie and Stacey Pigott decided to go to a public shelter with their four children, when it became apparent that their home’s power and water could be out for days. On Monday evening, they sat outside the New Wine Christian Fellowship Church on Airline Highway waiting for a bus to take them out of LaPlace.
“Even when Isaac hit, the water never got that high,” Ronnie Pigott said.
All of the shingles came off the Pigotts’ house while the hurricane raged after dark Sunday night. When that happened, water started to pour into the house. They managed to clean it up a bit during Monday morning, but when it started raining in the afternoon, they realized they weren’t able to stay in the house.
“It was raining inside the house and you could smell the mold,” said Stacey Pigott. “There’s supposed to be another rainstorm coming through and there was no way that house is going to hold.”
Pigott was reluctant to go to a shelter at first — because she has two young daughters and was concerned about the safety of sleeping around adult men — but then she didn’t feel like she had much of a choice.
Even those LaPlace residents who have little damage to their homes said the current living conditions are difficult — and they are worried about their ability to stay.
Shanereka Tillman’s house was largely spared by Ida, but she still doesn’t have electricity or running water in her home. She’s told it could take three weeks for those services to come back. Tillman said she wasn’t able to evacuate because she had to work. She’s a supervisor at an industrial plant that did not close for the hurricane.
“Even if they would just give us the water, we could make do with flashlights and candles,” she said.
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