Houma Rep. Tanner Magee has weathered many a hurricane in his lifetime but says Hurricane Ida was the most destructive, leveling Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes like Allied bombers in World War II.

The storm came ashore Aug. 29 with 150-mile-per-hour winds, then Ida lost little strength as it traveled up the wetlands between coastal Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes.

“Buildings exploded, bricks everywhere,” grown men cried at the destruction, Magee told the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday.

As speaker pro tem, Magee is the second-highest ranking leader in the Louisiana House. The Republican lawyer also represents Houma and eastern parts of Terrebonne Parish, which were near the eye of Ida.

About 10,000 homes were destroyed in Terrebonne, he said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has money for hotel rooms and to rent temporary housing, but the storm was so large that the closest hotels available for storm victims are two hours away in Picayune, Mississippi.

FEMA does have a direct housing program but it won’t be until mid-November until units start arriving and then they’ll only be placed after clearing a number of hurdles, such as not being in flood zone, Magee said.

But the state, with FEMA’s blessing, stepped in on Monday opening its Hurricane Ida Sheltering Program, which will provide temporary housing to people made homeless in the heavily impacted parishes, hopefully by next week.

Mobile homes might be available, but the options are basically whatever can be found: recreational vehicles, travel trailers that typically hitch to an existing vehicle, and crew barges.


Tarps are placed on homes after Hurricane Ida between Thibodaux and Houma, La., Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. (Photo by Sophia Germer, NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

Those whose homes were destroyed or currently unlivable can begin registering for the program Monday by either visiting www.Idashelteringla.com or calling (844) 268-0301.

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State inspectors are looking at two locations in Terrebonne Parish that can serve as a base camp for residents whose homesites are so unsafe that temporary lodging on-site isn’t wise. The idea is to keep residents relatively close so they can work on their damaged homes, but also are able to get indoors from the elements and maintain a level of privacy, Magee said.

“There is no doubt that there are people currently living in unsafe or unsanitary housing because of Hurricane Ida, which is not acceptable,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement announcing the beginning of the program.

“Housing is the biggest challenge facing those affected by this devastating storm, and our state-run sheltering program is a safe, creative, temporary solution to get more people closer to their homes as they rebuild.”

Edwards said that housing is the state’s biggest need after three named storms hit Louisiana in 2020 and Ida hit in 2021.

"Last week, Congress and the White House approved billions in federal Community Development Block Grant funding for Louisiana and other states to address damage caused by recent storms. In Louisiana, we intend to direct much of our share of the funding to housing recovery for people affected by Hurricanes Laura, Delta, Zeta and Ida," Edwards said.

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Piles of crumbled bricks lay on Main Street street and sidewalk in front of a demolished building in Houma, Monday, August 30, 2021, after Hurricane Ida made landfall on Sunday then marched inland.

The goal is to have the first state-owned travel trailers staged in the designated parishes within the week as teams begin assessing both group and private location sites, Edwards said.

While Hurricane Ida Sheltering Program is funded through FEMA, it is run entirely by the state.

FEMA is helping the state purchase the travel trailers as an interim solution. FEMA issued an emergency procurement request and last week the state started purchasing travel trailers.

The program is federally funded through the FEMA Public Assistance program, which means the federal government will cover 90% of the costs.

Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.