LaPlace residents rebounding one year after Hurricane Ida — but still in harm’s way
About three weeks ago, it was finally
At long last, the camper was hauled off her front lawn, and she could once again look onto the street from her home on
"I'm happy to see my grass is growing back," Williams-Webber said on a recent Wednesday. "It's the little things that make you happy."
The once-flooded neighborhoods of
The view from her front yard has changed, too. Her flooded-out car is still in the driveway, and so is her neighbor's next door. Only they, like many others on the street, have not yet returned.
"We're waiting for the
Ida delivered a punishing combination of Category 4 winds, a massive storm surge and heavy rain. The downpour was particularly devastating for residents of low-lying areas, like Williams-Webber. And it conjured memories from a decade ago when the area was flooded after Hurricane Isaac.
For decades, the roughly 40,000 residents of
Until then, every hurricane season is a gamble.
Height of the season
Heading into the most active phase of the year, residents are still reeling from last year's devastation. In
Data suggest that, on a per-capita basis, St. John was
"The devastation after the storm was incredible because not only did people flood, but we also had a lot of structural damage on properties," said Parish Councilman
The recovery has also been slowed by the state's homeowners insurance crisis, which was triggered by the four hurricanes that made landfall in the state since late 2020.
Eight companies have collapsed under financial strain and a growing number of them are pulling out of
For those people, getting their final settlement may take even longer.
"That's a problem, but it's not a big problem," Arcuri said. "I see a lot of progress that's happening in our parish."
Schools back with fewer students
The imprint left by the storm is becoming clear in other ways.
St. John the Baptist's public schools recently returned to the classroom for the first time since the pandemic, with about 400 fewer students in attendance before Ida. Many of them have left for other cities in
It's too soon to know what the final tally will show until the first count of the current school year is completed in October. School officials have some insight now because the district sent computers to students last year for virtual classes.
"Some of them haven't reported back yet where they have gone," said
Johnson said there could be various reasons for the decline, but most point back to Ida.
"It's because of a lack of housing in the district and families just not moving back since the storm," Johnson said. "Many of our neighborhoods where apartments are, (they're) no longer available because they haven't been fixed."
The district's facilities suffered the same kind of damage as homeowners: shredded roofs and broken windows. But Johnson said most of the critical work was done in time for the
Only one school —
"We're looking to start this school year off with – hopefully – no interruptions, now that the whole district can go back into a building setting," Wallace said. "(Now) you don't have to be sharing with other schools and modifying other buildings to maintain the day-to-day education."
An uneven recovery
The outlook is less optimistic in the far northwest corner of the
There, numerous buildings are still in a state of disrepair. Campers crowd the front yards. And Blue tarps are still draped over many roofs.
Inside a small duplex on
In the kitchen, the cabinets were mismatched and the sink was the wrong size. In the bedroom, the closet doors didn't fit. The bathroom sink was returned because it, too, was the wrong size.
Smith evacuated to
"They tried to screw me," Smith said. "Two months ago, all of this should have been done. If I'm going to pay for them to do my house, I want it done right."
Outside a nearby house,
She said a tree fell on top of her family's house that required a crane to remove it. Her family stayed behind during Ida and had to be rescued from floodwaters by the
"We were all in the attic when the water was coming in," she said. "It was very scary."
There's still a dent in the peak of the roof, a reminder of her family's ongoing battle with their insurer. She said the company has only offered
"We don't have a mortgage; the house is paid in full," Barnette said. "I think that's why the insurance (company) is giving us more of an issue. It's just us."
Looking down the street toward her neighbors on
"This block is the worse one because of all the trailers," she said. "We look like a trailer park instead of a subdivision."
Patience is running low as Kenner continues to rebuild one year after Hurricane Ida
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