SCHRIEVER, La. — Eileen Lirette strode through the foot of water pooling in her front yard in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, dodging downed tree branches and worrying what she might find inside her home.
“I’ll look in a minute,” she said Monday morning. “When I work up the courage.”
After a cautious peek inside, Eileen hurried through the house in relief. Few items were in disarray, no water damage, no broken windows. A single branch had punctured the ceiling directly in the bedroom, the sharp end pointed straight down toward her and her husband’s bed.
“We’re fortunate to just have that,” her husband, Randy Lirette said.
Randy drove further down the road to survey the damage at his daughter’s house, who had evacuated to Texas. At both houses, they took photos of as much as they could before beginning to clear debris. After 17 years in Schriever, he’s seen hurricane after hurricane, including Katrina.
Ida was worse.
The hurricane made landfall Sunday on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Category 4 Ida swept in and stalled over southeast Louisiana, hammering the region with high winds. Torrential rain also created flooding in many communities.
More than 1 million homes and businesses in the state — adding up to more than 2 million residents — were out of power after Ida devastated the electric grid, leaving all of New Orleans in the dark.
Hospitals ICUs, already flooded with COVID-19 patients, had nowhere to evacuate patients because beds across the state were full.
On Monday, patients from storm-damaged hospitals were being relocated. The utility Entergy New Orleans said assessing damage may take several days because of difficulty accessing some areas. The expectation is it will take weeks for customers in hard-hit locations to get electricity back.
On Sunday night, social media exploded with pleas from people trapped in attics in LaPlace with water rising rapidly. Rescuers couldn’t immediately help because winds were too high for boats to move safely and streets were flooded.
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With water treatment plants overwhelmed by floodwaters or crippled by power outages, some places were also facing shortages of drinking water. About 441,000 people in 17 parishes had no water, and an additional 319,000 were under boil-water advisories, federal officials said.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us and no one is under the illusion that this is going to be a short process,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said.
Local and state officials set up locations where residents could get water, ice and food as well as get a break from the stifling heat in air conditioning, including 70 transit buses New Orleans started using as cooling sites.
Officials issued mandatory evacuation orders for Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes. But the roads slowly filled with residents returning to check on their homes or help friends who needed them.
That’s what people do, the Lirettes said, after a storm like this.
“I love Louisiana,” Randy said. “I’ll stay here the rest of my life. A hurricane ain’t gonna drive me away.”