Nearly 9 months after Hurricane Ida, first responders bracing for new storm season
GRAND ISLE - A town nearly obliterated by Hurricane Ida's path last year, Grand Isle was slammed by more than 10 feet of storm surge.
"It was horrific. When that roof, peeled up and the water started coming in, I said 'guys, this could be it. If the rest of the roof comes off, we could be in trouble,'" Grand Isle Chief Scooter Resweber recalled. "Our wind gauge broke at 148 miles an hour sustained. It stopped working completely."
The storm caused so much destruction, officials had to block off access to Grand Isle for days.
"They had some camper trailers here, they were just rolling over like tops, down the thing. It was just unreal. I was scared, I ain't going to lie. I'm a grown man, 73 years old," Chief Scooter said.
In neighboring LaFourche Parish, nearly nine months later, damage is still left behind in the small community of LaRose.
A strip mall area used to house various businesses, including a Rouses and Walgreens, that are no longer there. It's now home to a FEMA camp for those who are still misplaced.
Thibodaux saw wind gusts of up to 100 miles per hour.
During those horrifying hours as Ida ripped through the bayou parishes and lower Jefferson, rescues seemed nearly impossible.
"We estimated about 125 people total, counting the fire department and us. We tried to get a count and address of each person who did want to stay, and we told them to leave. And if they refuse, we let them stay. That's their choice. We took their address down and how many people in the group and told them it might be hours, if not days, before we can get to you to recover you if something happened bad. Which it did," Chief Scooter said.
"The community of Kraemer started to flood. Their levees topped. And communications by this time had went down. Electricity had gone down. And we were getting sporadic messages on Facebook and social media that people's houses were filling with water," LaFourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre said.
The sheriff's office was prepared for rescues, but what would've been a 20-minute drive to the community, lasted three hours.
"So, there was inmates and trucks and chainsaws and axes and shovels and cables and police officers literally, just minute by minute, you drive a hundred yards, you cut a tree, make a path just wide enough for one car to get through," explained Sheriff Webre, "A really great resource that sheriff's have to use during disasters are the inmate labor crews who volunteer to assist both in preparation, filling sandbags, loading trucks, doing barricades, whatever needs to be done but in that recovery effort as well."
But, for Chief Scooter Resweber in Grand Isle, it was a more harrowing scene after Ida plowed through.
"It was not safe for them to be out there. But we knew where everybody would be. So, we knew as soon as the storm was over we would go out and start looking for them to see if they made it."
Losing not only homes and businesses but their resources as well, Ida took five emergency police units, making it harder to venture out.
"We know now to save equipment like we saved ourselves, get up high. We'll probably end up taking most of our good cars to another place—maybe a sheriff's department in Golden Meadows somewhere—and park them there. And keep maybe one unit so that after the roads open we jump in and go pick up the good ones and bring them back," Chief Scooter explained.
Out of a heartbreaking disaster came a renewed respect for preparations.
"Ida is now the hurricane, the hallmark of hurricanes. And when you have hurricane of that magnitude, that was such a slow-moving hurricane and it pounded the parish for so many hours, to not lose a single life is just unbelievable," Sheriff Webre said.
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