St. John the Baptist Parish recovering and rebuilding one year after Hurricane Ida
ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH (WVUE) - For many residents impacted by Hurricane Ida in 2021, they’re still living in trailers in their driveways while work continues inside their homes. Meanwhile, parish officials are making sure the work continues to make communities in St. John the Baptist Parish more resilient.
“Everything has been real hard,” said LaPlace resident Albertha Vickers. “We’re trying to do our best and as older people you know, we just can’t move around like other persons can but we’re surviving.”
For the last year, she and her husband survived in a camper in their driveway. Their home was significantly damaged by Hurricane Ida.
Today, her home still doesn’t have a functioning kitchen.
“So we don’t do any cooking. We haven’t done any cooking in a year,” said Vickers. “So this is how we survive; on restaurant food during the day because I don’t have a stove and everything inside.”
As she waits for her new kitchen to be complete, she said she’s hopeful it won’t be long until life gets back to normal.
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Much like Barry Jones, who also lives in LaPlace and hopes to move back into his home by the first week of September.
“Right now we’re in the process of putting the doors in, I just recently got the floors completed and now they’re starting to put the doors and the trim work right now,” said Jones.
Jones said his home is built four feet higher than the street, but it still got over one and a half feet of water inside during Ida. He said this is the second time his house flooded, and if it floods again he said he’ll most likely move.
“I think this is it. I won’t stay,” said Jones. “It was that bad. Yeah. I won’t stay no more.”
Others aren’t waiting to find out. ‘For Sale’ signs can be seen on nearly every street throughout St. John the Baptist Parish.
“I’m just trying to stay positive that this won’t happen again you know and hopefully in the process we get this levee built and this will give us some relief you know because we’re only a mile from the lake right here. One mile from the lake,” said Jones.
Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) is investing nearly one billion dollars in hurricane levees in vulnerable communities like St. John Parish.
“So that was really good news,” said Parish President Jaclyn Hotard. “Because many of our low-lying areas that flooded, you know, myself included—we are susceptible to the whim of Lake Pontchartrain, so we so desperately need this.”
Hotard said work is already taking place to rebuild and re-enforce 18.5 miles of flood protection. She’s hopeful by the end of 2024, the parish will see significant flood risk reduction from the levee system.
“It’s a good thing that even in this destruction, there is opportunity to rebuild and make it better,” she said.
But she said the needs of many are still great.
“Because we know some have completed recovery and some are still stuck whether it’s in red tape with an insurance company, understanding policies and documents and FEMA guidelines and so we’re here to help though.”
With lessons learned and preparations made, parish officials feel more confident one year later.
But for residents, they’re just holding their breath until hurricane season ends.
“Hoping that this year we survive and it’ll be a little bit better and we don’t have to run,” said Vickers.
“I just got my fingers crossed that this is it. It won’t happen again,” said Jones.
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