Harrowing scenes in Louisiana revealed the actual depth of Hurricane Ida’s devastation, with more than 1 million people still without power and officials warning that it may be weeks before the system is fully restored.
The destruction left by the Category 4 hurricane that smashed into the region Sunday with gusts of up to 150 mph, making it one of the most destructive storms in U.S. history.
There a building close to Jax Brewery in the city’s French Quarter being torn off by the storm’s strong winds, blocking traffic.
Some courageous people stepped outdoors to see the damage, including one man who was recorded surveying the post-apocalyptic landscape with a flashlight.
Lxchelle Arceneaux watched in horror Monday as her roof collapsed, her garage door was shattered, and her backyard basketball hoop was toppled by strong Hurricane Ida winds, which blew through her village near New Orleans the night before.
“My children were terrified,” the 46-year-old told AFP as she stood at the front door of her damaged house in LaPlace, Louisiana, clad entirely in blue. “I never heard wind like this before.”
Arceneaux, her husband, and their children took refuge in a bedroom when Hurricane Ida smashed in a window that they had tried to seal with wooden boards and duct tape.
She said, “We started taking water inside from the roof. The fire alarm started ringing and her voice was drowned out by the drone of emergency generators that had been activated after the town’s electricity went out.”
The family attempted to drain some of the water, but they lacked the necessary buckets. Part of the ceiling collapsed late Sunday night, and rain then streamed into her living room, creating damp bubbles on her white wallpaper that were still evident.
Arceneaux was enraged with local officials, who she claimed had failed to provide enough information about the hurricane’s path and the dangers confronting this 30,000-person community on the Mississippi River’s east bank, halfway between New Orleans and the state capital, Baton Rouge.
“We were advised of the hurricane but we didn’t know the eye of the storm had shifted closer to us,” she added.
“We didn’t receive the flash flood warning until before the storm was already here,” she explained.
Prior to the approach of Hurricane Ida, the parish of St. John issued voluntary and non-mandatory evacuation orders.
“I really wish I would have left and not experienced this,” she added.
Carlo Barber, 22, a neighbor, was similarly taken aback by Ida’s severity, which flooded his house with over five inches (12 cm) of water, scattered rooftiles across his yard, and wrecked his fence.
Barber explained, “When the place flooded, I took my truck and slept in the parking lot of Home Depot,” a national DIY shop.
“It was worst than what I expected,” he added. “When hurricane Isaac happened last year we didn’t get water in the house.”
“We were not prepared for Ida,” Barber continued, “but next time we will be.”
Many roads in LaPlace were still flooded or obstructed by felled trees, electricity lines, and collapsed utility poles on Monday.
“We rescued over a hundred people,” said Jonathan Walker, a St. John Parish sheriff’s officer who was riding around town in the back of an army vehicle.
Anderson Martinez, 17, was one of the individuals rescued when a National Guard aircraft landed in the parking lot of a shopping center with around ten people on board, including three small children.
Martinez, his 14-year-old brother, and their mother had sought sanctuary in a downtown hotel when Ida struck. However, when they tried to escape their improvised refuge after the storm, floodwater blocked them off.
Martinez was driving a cart with all his possessions covered in plastic bags. He said, “The water was two meters deep.” His house was only a 10-minute drive away, and he was anxious to see if it was still standing.