As Lafayette Parish residents surveyed Hurricane Delta’s damage and set to work on storm cleanup, they expressed gratitude for silver linings and the help of family, friends and neighbors.

Hurricane Delta made landfall in southwest Louisiana around 6 p.m. Friday as a Category 2 storm, bringing top winds around 100 mph that contributed to power outages for an estimated 680,000 people statewide and widespread tree damage, in addition to water damage in some areas.

In Lafayette, 50,000 of LUS’s 70,000 customers initially lost power and 108,000 of 110,000 total SLEMCO customers in Lafayette and Acadiana lost power. Cleco, Entergy and other service providers also experienced widespread outages as fallen trees took down lines and damaged systems across the region.

Cheryl Derrick tried to keep a sense of humor as she stood on her driveway Saturday morning, operating on no sleep as she surveyed the trees strewn across her yard, her car and her roof.

“Someone said to me, ‘You always wanted a treehouse.’ I do have a tree house now!” Derrick joked with a tree specialist surveying the damage.

“Even though I can see sunshine through my roof I didn’t get any water damage inside, so that’s a little bit of a silver lining,” she said.

While Derrick, her husband, their oldest son, their 4-year-old granddaughter and Derrick’s in-laws listened to the wind howl, three trees fell: the first crashed onto her car, the second nearly took out a wheelchair ramp and the third snapped off at the top and pierced the Fieldspan Drive home’s roof, she said.

The group huddled in their living room as far from the falling trees as possible until the storm calmed, while Derrick swiftly began filing insurance claims and texting a roofing repair specialist during the height of the storm.

Between filing claims Derrick said she was on high alert, listening to each change in the wind while praying the storm wouldn’t catch under her damaged soffits and rip the roof off.

Derrick said her neighbors were on alert too, coming over with spotlights in the middle of the storm to survey damage and offer her family shelter and cleanup support. In the aftermath, neighbors kept her granddaughter entertained and gave Derrick space to make plans.

“Friends and neighbors are so important nowadays. You have to rely on each other,” Derrick said.

Down the road, Rhonda Babineaux looked on as her husband, son-in-law and grandson cleared downed tree limbs from her mother Janel Clark’s roof. Hurricane Delta dropped a tree on the home’s roof, damaged the roof of Clark’s barn and ripped up a front porch canopy.

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The mess made for an undesirable weekend of storm cleanup, but overall they were lucky, Babineaux said.

“The house you can repair, the barn you can repair, but you can’t repair a life. We’re blessed to still have what we have,” she said.

Babineaux and around 15 to 20 other family members packed into Clark’s home for the storm, seeking sturdier shelter than their small houses and mobile homes, she said. The family has weathered storms in Clark’s home before, but the wind from Delta was rough, she said.

“It was a wild experience, very unnerving … Everyone was nervous. You could see the tension was high,” Babineaux said.

Several miles away, on Acorn Drive in Lafayette, Crystal Racca battled a similar unnerving anxiety and tension Friday night. Racca, who is pregnant, said hormones, concern over Delta’s slightly more eastern path and a general fear about how their home — which they’ve lived in less than two years — would fare in the storm, were overwhelming her.

Racca, her husband, Andy, their 14-year-old son and her mother turned to prayer and scripture readings to establish a sense of peace as the storm picked up. Even when their biggest storm fear — a tree falling on their home — came true, there was gratitude the damage wasn’t worse and they were physically well, they said.

Andy Racca said the tree took out an awning and pierced through the attic and their garage, but missed the main living areas of their house.

“Even though the tree fell I still believe God was at work here because that tree could’ve fallen on us. We’re alive, we’re still able to function in our house with a generator, so we’re thankful,” Andy said.

Neighbors and friends also turned out for the family Saturday. Within 10 minutes of seeking cleanup help in a Facebook post, Crystal Racca’s boss was coordinating co-worker assistance and neighbors were swarming from around the block, the couple said.

The helpers sawed the fallen tree, hauled wood into a pickup truck and cleared debris swiftly. It was an incredible showing of compassion and community, the Raccas said.

“You watch out for everybody. That’s what a community is,” Crystal Racca said.


Email Katie Gagliano at kgagliano@theadvocate.com