Ezequiel Calloway, of Houma, moved to his daughter’s place for a few days to avoid Hurricane Ida’s devastation.
When he returned two days after the storm, he could not believe his eyes. He found his hometown wiped out and his home gone.
“It was all here,” he said in a whisper, pointing his finger to the piled up debris that had been home for so long. “I am here with nothing, now, and no one is here to help me.”
Powerlines and trees remain intertwined on the streets of Houma eight days after Ida swept through the bayou community in Terrebonne Parish. No one in the parish has power, and electricity isn't expected to return until the end of the month.
Running water recently returned to Terrebonne Parish and the neighboring Lafourche Parish, although both remain under boil advisories as pressure remains low and work continues on infrastructure. Cell service is slowly returning to both bayou parishes, but it remains spotty.
Some people are waiting up to eight hours for a gallon of gas while workers with Entergy Louisiana try to restore power.
"Lafourche and Terrebonne were two of our hardest hit areas," said Brandon Scardigli, spokesperson for Entergy Louisiana. "The damage we're seeing down there is going to require not just a restoration, but a complete rebuild of the distribution system. We were able to completely assess damage in both areas and we're now working to put that plan into action to begin restoring customers."
Entergy has about 30,000 customers in Terrebonne Parish and 45,000 customers in Lafourche Parish. All of them remained without power eight days after Hurricane Ida made landfall.
Customers in both parishes shouldn't expect to have power restored until Sept. 29 because of Ida's widespread damage to the infrastructure, according to a Monday update from Entergy Louisiana.
There were about 1,000 damaged poles, 900 spans of wire down and 1,200 damaged transformers in Terrebonne Parish after the hurricane. In Lafourche Parish, there were about 3,000 broken power poles, 2,000 spans of wire down and 50 damaged transformers.
Entergy has 26,000 crews working in southeastern Louisiana to restore power to more than 900,000 people who lost service during Hurricane Ida.
"We have a well-rehearsed restoration plan that prioritizes critical infrastructure first," Scardigli said. "That's things such as hospitals, police stations, wastewater facilities. We'll then work to get places like grocery stores and gas stations operational. After that, we make the repairs that will get largest amount of customers on at once. So we will prioritize a repair that gets 2,000 people back on at once versus one that will only get 200 people on at once."
A sense of community has formed in the aftermath of Ida as people rely on one another for basic necessities.
Early each morning, the Rev. Stephanie Francis, pastor of the 316 Church in Houma, gathers with members of her congregation to offer bottles of water, snacks, diapers and other necessities. More than 400 vehicles stopped by on Sunday.
"A lot of people here spent their money either to evacuate or trying to precautionary protect their property,” Francis said. She said that most of the people in Houma are using generators they bought before the storm. “But too many still don't have it because they can’t afford it, and we can’t forget about these people.”
Alex Richoux picked his load of clean laundry out of a few stacks — some folded, some fresh from the dryer — Friday afternoon in a small, air-…
Jazz Blues & Bayous, a bar owned by Rooney Carvin, a retired U.S. Army Veteran native of Houma, is offering fried chicken, bread, and water to everyone who wants it.
“I had 500 people coming here on Sunday,” he said. “We start every day at 9 in the morning until we run out the supplies to give.”
Some people, however, have expressed frustration over the attention large cities such as New Orleans and New York City have received in the aftermath of Ida.
Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson said Monday that he was interviewed for a segment on CNN after a live shot of a cooling station in New Orleans that 14,000 people had passed through.
"It angers me when I see that because this was not a New Orleans storm," Chaisson said. "And I'm glad that 14,000 people got to go to a cooling station, but we probably have 14,000 people here that don't have homes right now."
A cooling station is the least of Chaisson's concerns since some of his constituents still are without running water, although most of the parish recently had water service restored. The parish remains under a boil advisory as repairs continue to infrastructure damaged by Ida.
The 911 system and Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office phone system were restored late last week, Chaisson said. Cell service, including a dedicated network for first responders, remains spotty in the parish.
"AT&T FirstNet, which was supposed to be the premier network for first responders that was supposed to work when everything else went down, still doesn't work in a lot of places, which is scary," Chaisson said. "But people are starting to slowly get connectivity back."
Chaisson expects to do a post-storm assessment with other local leaders once the immediate needs are addressed to determine how to avoid such a catastrophic communication failure in the future.
"There's going to be a whole host of holes that this storm opened up that we're going to have to fix in the long run," Chaisson said "Radios were very spotty. No cell service. No internet to be seen anywhere. This is the first time we ever went dark."