After Katrina and Isaac, coastal towns adapt to a 'new normal'

Russell Pratts (left) and Phil Morales unload boxes of crab at Tivo Mones Seafood
Russell Pratts (left) and Phil Morales unload boxes of crab at Tivo Mones Seafood

Delacroix, La. -- Cary Robin spent part of his Thursday shoveling mud from his submerged boat in the bayou.

Before Isaac made landfall, Robin hauled two other boats to protected areas.  Since the third one survived Hurricane Gustav in 2008, he tied it down and figured it would ride out the storm.

"It started out to be just a tropical storm," Robin said.

When he returned to Delacroix after the storm had passed, Robin found the boat partially underwater, sticking straight in the air.  The extent of the damage to the boat is unclear.

Although a Category 1 hurricane, Isaac plowed into Delacroix with a nearly a 12-foot surge.  Seven years after Katrina wiped out the community, the people of Delacroix once again are repairing damage or building anew.

For some here, Isaac represents a second major disaster, but for others it's something short of catastrophe.  Many of the homes, now elevated 20 or 30 feet above sea level, towered over the floodwaters this time.

The Tivo Mones wholesale seafood business got back in operation one week after the storm with temporary facilities.  Isaac wiped out the office and two 40-foot containers that the family-owned business used as freezers.

The storm carried one of the containers five miles away, but no one has a clue where the other one went.

On Delacroix Island, locals have a sense of a new normal, in which the loss of surrounding islands and marsh leaves them more exposed to storms.

"Where I duck hunt now, I used to be able to walk all over that land," Phil Morales said. "There's no land there."

Seven years after Katrina, Delacroix is a community that empties out most evenings.  Many of the homes, mounted on stilts, now serve as weekend camps.  Locals say only about a dozen families live here permanently.

Russell Pratts, who works at Tivo Mones, has a backup plan for the travel trailer he parks across the street from the dock.  "This is where I basically stay six, seven days a week," said Pratts.

When a hurricane threatens, Pratts said he can "hook onto it, move it on out."

Still, some natives are clinging to this little piece of real estate.

"It's about the water. It's about your livelihood," said Sherri Lopez. "It's what you do. It's in your blood."

For Lopez and those who keep coming back to Delacroix, this is a story of resiliency.

"It was something we had to do," Lopez said. "I had to come back home."