‘It’s been a struggle’: To stay or go? Grand Isle residents work to recover 5 months after Hurricane Ida

Published: Feb. 11, 2022 at 10:49 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Grand Isle residents are determined to bring the island back even better than before. But bouncing back after Hurricane Ida won’t be something that happens overnight.

“A lot of for sale signs yea. People just gave up,” said Lindsey Blanchard. He and his wife Sue have a retirement home in Grand Isle that they are now renovating from storm damage. “It’s just a matter of demolition and rebuilding it if they choose to.”

The island has many empty lots, for sale signs, and devastation.

“I still look around. I walk out on my porch and I look around and it’s like wow, We’re still where we were five months ago,” said Paul Frazier, a contractor on the island who also lives nearby.

Intense wind gusts pushed a storm surge into Grand Isle topping 10 feet in some locations. In fact, just up the road from the island in Port Fourchon, the Laney Chouest ship recorded an unofficial wind gust over 200 miles per hour. Hurricane Ida covered parts of the island in several feet of sand covering the roadways, destroying the infrastructure, and making Grand Isle unrecognizable.

But even though the devastation seems insurmountable, there are glimmers of hope.

“You know, we get discouraged. But then you just got to pick yourself back up,” said Kelli Scardino, owner of Hurricane Hole restaurant, who said some of the businesses are starting to reopen on the island.

“So right now we only have three employees and I pretty much work every day whether it’s in the kitchen, the dining room, the bar,” she said. “A lot of the locals that were working are no longer here. They may have moved on or just have not returned yet you know, from wherever they are for now because of the storm.”

She said the problem is the infrastructure. There are not enough housing options for workers. But people are slowly returning to the island.

Frazier lives just outside Grand Isle and works as a contractor. He said he’s been busy helping people get their homes and lives back together since Ida.

“It’s been stressful. Sometimes I wish the phone wouldn’t ring,” he said. “We’re so backed up it’s like now one lady asked if her house would be finished by Easter. I said is Easter in September this year?”

Meanwhile, Frazier is trying to build back himself. He said Hurricane Ida brought about 12 feet of water in his home.

“It’s been a struggle,” he said. “I’ve got a floor. I have sheetrock on my walls and I have a TV. So I have a place to stay. And we got a new washing machine two weeks ago, so we’re uptown now.”

He’s staying positive, like many others who are recovering from the storm.

It’s been over five months since Hurricane Ida and basic utilities have only just returned-- the water, electricity, and the gas. For some, it’s a huge relief, but for others, they’re now faced with the tough decision to stay or to go.

Utility crews are still working hard on the island. New power poles have been installed and Entergy is also burying lines as a backup in the event of future outages.

“My wife and her sister love the beach. It doesn’t matter if the sand is white or tan, they love the beach,” said Blanchard. “We’re enjoying our retirement home in Grand Isle believe it or not... We get up every day and go to work. We just don’t get paid. We spend a lot of money on materials.”

Blanchard said it took a long time to find a contractor to help repair their home. It also took a long time to get materials for the renovation.

He said the town is looking better compared to that first day after Hurricane Ida. They’re seeing a lot of people working on their properties.

“So it’s gonna take us four to five months to finish, but we’ll get there.”

Folks in Grand Isle are looking ahead to the summertime when they know more people will come to town to visit, to spend money, and help rebuild the community.

Residents are looking forward to the Blessing of the Fleet Festival in April and the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo in July.

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