‘We are always going to stay resilient and rebuild’: Ida evacuees share hope as storm pummels south Louisiana

“We’ve gotten through the part of evacuating, now we have to get through ‘Can we go home?’ ”
A 'NO VACANCY' sign hangs on the front doors of a Natchitoches hotel as thousands of Hurricane...
A 'NO VACANCY' sign hangs on the front doors of a Natchitoches hotel as thousands of Hurricane Ida evacuees flee the monster deadly storm pummeling south Louisiana.(Christian Piekos)
Published: Aug. 29, 2021 at 9:39 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 29, 2021 at 11:22 PM CDT
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NATCHITOCHES, La. (KSLA) — Hundreds of miles from their homes in south Louisiana, thousands of evacuees who have fled from catastrophic Hurricane Ida have found refuge in Natchitoches.

Hotels are packed to the brim; some have “No Vacancy” signs on their front doors.

In fact, one woman that KSLA News 12 met spent the night in her truck with her children in Shreveport because she could not find a room. Fortunately, she secured an opening in a hotel just off I-49 in Natchitoches.

“We can replace property, the house; but you can’t replace a life,” said Quinn Norwood, who fled his home in New Iberia with his family. “We choose family first.”

Norwood has made the choice to ride out previous hurricanes, but Ida is different.

“You’re just praying and hoping for the best, not just for yourself, but for the people who are stuck in the middle of it,” Norwood explained. “We are all resilient and we all stick together.”

Patsy and Patrick Henry, along with their dog, never questioned the choice to flee their home in Morgan City. They left late last week and plan to drive from Natchitoches to an open room in West Monroe.

“We’ve gotten through the part of evacuating, now we have to get through ‘can we go home?’” Patsy said. “Do we have a home to go back to? Do they have a home to go back to? How long will it be before we can go back home?”

People of faith, Patsy and Patrick are praying for those who made the difficult decision to stay behind and hunker down.

“I am praying that they don’t have the destruction, which I’m afraid they are,” Patsy said. “I hope there’s no lives lost - that’s the main thing.”

Rick Gutierrez evacuated from Prarieville. Like many others, he questions what will remain of his home and belongings.

“What am I going to need? What are my friends going to need? What are we going to do to get back up and running again?”

Sitting in a hotel café, watching severe weather coverage of Ida, Gutierrez explained how the closely knit ties among people who have weathered these dangerous storms keeps hard-hit communities strong. “They show their faith through humanity. They do reach out to each other, they are there in a second.”

Across the interstate, Sally Halm, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express, is loving on her weary and exhausted guests.

“It really is the highlight of my career. Knowing that I’m really helping people without a home, scared they are going to lose a home.”

Halm said the evacuees have responded with gratitude and immense appreciation for her hospitality.

“I think everyone is compassionate and understanding. They all just want to be together and take care of another.”

After her interview, Halm walked back to the front desk of her hotel. An evacuee was waiting to learn whether there was an open room. There was, and she wrapped her arms around Halm in relief.

“We’re all in it together,” Halm said.

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