Some progress made, many challenges remain in St. Charles one year after Ida
ST. CHARLES PARISH, La. (WVUE) - In a community that stretches along both sides of the Mississippi River life in many ways flows at a normal pace. But a closer look reveals that some lives remain upended a year after Hurricane Ida roared through southeast Louisiana.
St. Parish Parish, which is upriver from New Orleans, was not spared by the fearsome winds of Ida on August 29, 2021. And many residents are still trying to recover.
Christy Cancienne and her family live in the Hahnville area and they are still in temporary housing.
“As you can see we’re still in a camper... which I’m very grateful for. The Ida Sheltering Program, that has been a godsend,” said Cancienne.
Frequent and ominous-looking summertime clouds pale compared to what Ida brought to communities a year ago.
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Rosa Powell lives on the opposite side of the river in the St. Rose area.
“The house is a mess, still a mess,” said Powell.
In St. Charles Parish, repairs co-mingle with resolve 365 days after Ida battered the area.
Cancienne’s large home is proof of the storm’s potent winds.
“We had a lot of unforeseen damage, so we had a lot of roof leaks, so my second floor was pretty much a complete gut, and then, of course, because of the moisture and everything, you know, we had other areas in the downstairs that needed to be, Sheetrock needed to replaced, and things like that,” she said.
Repairs have been far from rapid for many Ida victims.
“It’s just taking time, so I think that’s the hardest part, just how long it’s taking to get everything resolved,” Cancienne stated.
“We did the fence, you can see we have to fix it all but you cannot find the people to fix it, right?” noted Powell.
Powell’s street has many temporary trailers and campers on lawns.
“We had to buy everything new, I got new furniture, I need to get a new bed because the water went through, so thank you God we have a job,” she said.
St. Charles is a parish of 52,000 residents with a large industrial corridor.
And government leaders point to lots of progress since the powerful storm.
Matthew Jewell is St. Charles Parish’s President. “St. Charles Parish is in a great place if you compare from where we were just after Hurricane Ida to where we are now,” said Jewell.
He spoke about the one-year anniversary of Ida from inside the parish’s emergency operations center.
FOX 8 asked Jewell when he thought St. Charles Parish would be 100% recovered from Ida.
“Well, look we always talk about the fact that hurricane recovery takes a long time,” said Jewell. “I liken it to building a home, you know, getting your foundation and your framing and your roof on happens very quickly, that first 80% of your home goes up real quick; the last 20% is what takes a long time. I believe that we’re 80% recovered, we’re in that last 20% that takes a long time.”
Jason Tastet is St. Charles Parish’s director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. He too stressed that a lot of recovery has happened but said some residents still cannot live in their homes.
“You don’t have everybody back home, you still have a number of residents who are in temporary housing whether its FEMA trailers or IDA shelter houses, things like that,” said Tastet.
And like people around southeast Louisiana, some St. Charles Parish residents are still dealing with their insurance company a year after Hurricane Ida.
“For the most part insurance was fair, not fair enough, so we did seek the help with the public adjuster who is, you know, helping out a lot as well,” said Cancienne.
Powell has insurance too, but she still is having to pay out-of-pocket.
Jewell said government buildings were damaged, too.
“This storm cost St. Charles Parish millions of dollars and that could be for fixing buildings or paying for debris collection--everything that we needed to do to prepare and respond to Hurricane Ida,” said Jewell.
He wants FEMA to cut the red tape that is holding up reimbursement funds.
“We need FEMA to reimburse our parish the money that we spent for Hurricane Ida, we need people to get that insurance check from their insurance company,” said Jewell.
There is a collective hope that hurricanes stay away from Louisiana this year.
Tastet says people dwelling in trailers and campers are more vulnerable this hurricane season.
“People who aren’t in a permanent living situation is my biggest concern right now--is going to be people who are in campers, people who are in trailers who were in houses before that. That’s going to be our biggest concern, they’re in a more vulnerable situation as we enter the peak of hurricane season this year,” he said.
If there is a storm threat, Tastet says those living in trailers will have to evacuate.
“You’re going to have more people who need to evacuate even for a smaller storm, whether it could be a tropical storm if you’re in a camper you’re probably going to need to leave this year,” he said.
Such housing has other limitations.
Peighton Cancienne had to live separately from her family because of the size of their camper.
“It’s tight, we have two dogs, so I was actually living at my best friend’s house for a while but I just moved back because one of the rooms is done, so,” she said.
Her mother agreed.
“She’s back home but the house still isn’t completely done on the inside and as you can see it’s not even completely done on the outside yet, so it’s just taking time,” said Christy Cancienne.
But a year after Ida wrecked their homes, residents and their government are determined to come back stronger. “Every day I drive through the parish I see one less blue roof or I see a building that looked abandoned that now has a dumpster in front of it and you can see renovations starting,” said Jewell.
And residents are urged to sign up for parish government alerts and follow guidance from government officials if there is a hurricane threat. They say people in campers and trailers will need to evacuate for even a smaller storm.
“Pay attention to what we are saying here from the emergency operations center, what the parish president is saying if we issue emergency orders--pay attention and pay attention early, and right now they need to be thinking of a plan. If you’re in a camper or if you’re in a FEMA trailer, if you’re outside of your normal home or living situation you really need to have a plan this year and that plan needs to start maybe at a tropical storm whereas you might have been looking at a hurricane event years before,” said Tastet.
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