Hurricane Ida, one of the costliest tropical cyclones on record, left a path of destruction from the Gulf Coast to the Northeastern United States, but it hit the Bayou Region of Southeast Louisiana first and hardest.
“The only word I can use to describe it was terrifying,” says Houma resident Austin Avet. “The wind was so incredible that I could never tell if something was going to hit my house or if my roof would tear apart.”
“The wind was so incredible that I could never tell if something was going to hit my house or if my roof would tear apart.”
On August 29, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina that decimated the Mississippi Gulf Coast and flooded New Orleans, this Category 4 storm destroyed the Bayou Region from Grand Isle to north of Lake Pontchartrain. With sustained winds of 150 mph, Ida tied Hurricane Laura in 2020 and the 1856 Last Island hurricane as the strongest storm to hit Louisiana, according to NOAA data.
With the first alerts starting just three days before the Sunday landfall, meteorologists and public officials started warning of a very destructive hurricane and issuing mandatory evacuations for most parishes in Southeast Louisiana.
“The reality is this part of the Louisiana coastline went many years without a major storm impact (Betsy 1965) so this was new for many people,” says Meteorologist Zack Fradella with Fox 8 in New Orleans.
Ida was just shy of a Category 5 storm spanning from Port Fourchon to New Orleans, according to The Weather Channel. Port Fourchon, a local powerhouse for the oil industry, clocked winds of 228 mph and storm surge of more than 12 feet on one of their docked ships.
The hardest-hit areas were the southern parishes: Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Jefferson. The eye of the storm passed right over eastern Terrebonne, while the worst part of the storm (the eastern eyewall) passed over northern Lafourche, devastating the community.
Terrebonne Parish Police Officer Travis Theriot says he was on duty for hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustave and Ike and Ida was worse.
“Twenty three years in law enforcement and that was the scaredest I’ve ever been in a storm,” he says.
While some residents heeded the warnings and evacuated, many others, like Avet chose to stay.
“I would never stay for another major hurricane because regardless of what the weather professionals say, you can never be sure how strong it can be until you experience it first hand,” says the Houma resident.
Choctaw resident Aggie Thibodaux says the crisis became more apparent after the storm.
“It all got worse when the storm ended and I found out that my friends were hiding in their attics,” says Thibodaux.
After ploughing through Louisiana, Ida then turned north and tore through much of the South; even making its way to the Northeastern United States. The lingering power of the storm caused flash flooding in New Jersey where, according to Reuters.com, Ida claimed the lives of 50 people.
For Southeast Louisiana, the storm has not passed. Even more than a month later, many residents are still without power and some are even living in tents next to their uninhabitable homes. Many people are still dealing with displacement, being out of work and struggling with insurance or FEMA claims, says Martin Folse, host of HTV Houma.
“I’ve covered storms since 1985 and I’ve never quite seen a storm like this,” he says. “A lot of people are having a lot of struggle, but the vast majority aren’t struggling with the rebuilding as much as they’re being mistreated by their insurance companies and FEMA. That has been the most difficult thing in terms of recovery.”
This semester’s Lost Bayou community truly chose itself. The entire region lost so much in this intense and deadly hurricane. Since our hometowns were brutally impacted; it is only right that we tell these stories: the stories of the storm, the stories of loss and the stories of recovery and resiliency. Our stories.