Before Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana, hitting land as a powerful Category 4 storm on August 29, 2021, our Lafayette Advertiser and Houma Courier teams began to cover the emerging threat in the Gulf.
Before the storm
We started to watch for the disturbance that would become Ida early and continued to follow your progress.
In the days before Ida made landfall in Louisiana, and as the storm swept through the state, members of the digital team used a news automation pipeline to produce localized hurricane stories for markets close to the storm’s track.
Journalists kept community members informed of preparations underway by their parishes. Our digital producers Compiled zone webcams to provide our readers with an overview of deteriorating conditions.
During the storm
Reporters who had been personally affected by the storm provided insightful coverage that only those closest to the landing could provide.
We have diversified our coverage distribution platforms to try to reach affected people who do not have the ability to read our website.
Our team launched an SMS (text messaging) service for Hurricane Ida which has become a key link for our readers in the hard hit areas. The SMS list has grown to around 500 subscribers.
Journalists sent vital information directly to readers who may have low internet or mobile bandwidth due to power outages. We stayed with them via this direct SMS line of communication as the recovery process began.
Hurricane Ida in Grand Isle
Damage caused by Hurricane Ida on Thursday, September 2, 2021 in Grand Isle, Louisiana.
Henrietta Wildsmith, announcer for the daily Lafayette
As Hurricane Ida passed through Louisiana, a hard-hit woman from Houma responded by saying that she was alone and sheltering in her closet: “I don’t know how long my house can withstand these strong winds. , I’m afraid for my life. “
We texted responses to his questions about the storm, but we also showed our compassion. In our conversation with reporters, editors and producers, almost everyone kept asking her how she was all night long.
Finally, the texts fell silent. It was then that one of our reporters sent his address to the local police department. She survived and then sent us a gratitude text message: “Thank you all for staying in touch with me, I appreciate it.”
We shared poignant tales of how residents weathered the storm.
Following: Louisiana couple walked through Hurricane Ida in their laundry room, now they are walking 30 miles to safety
Jaki Sikaffy, her partner Solomon Smith, and their nearly 3-year-old puppy Walle crouched on top of their washer and dryer as Ida’s winds howled and rain pounded their house. They had very little sleep curled up together.
They spent 12 hours there before being finally rescued by a neighbor in a boat. Unfortunately, the hotel they were taken to was full.
They began their journey of about 30 miles to Kenner, where Sikaffy’s mother lives, on foot. Sikaffy had no shoes.
While providing these announcements about recovery support and assistance, we also investigated conditions at an Independence warehouse where seven nursing facilities had evacuated their residents.
Following: Louisiana revokes nursing home licenses after 7 people die in ‘inhuman’ warehouse conditions
Seven residents of the hundreds of nursing home residents evacuated before Hurricane Ida died in the warehouse in inexcusable conditions.
911 call log obtained by the USA Today Network reveals chaotic conditions reported even before Ida’s hit, with at least 30 calls made to local facility officials about construction conditions, food supply and a myriad of medical complaints.
We spoke with residents as they saw inequities in recovery as some areas received delayed or minimal recovery media.
One resident, Joseph “Albert” Billiot, who was born and raised in Dulac, said Ida was the worst hurricane he had endured.
“I saw my neighbor’s motorhome go up and down and then split in half,” Billiot said.
Several days after the storm, he said, he had not seen any local or state response and was not expecting it. Billiot pointed out some of the more expensive campers along the Bayou Grand Caillou and said he expected these to be attended to sooner.
“Houma was hit pretty well. Thibodaux probably was too. So the point is that they will first take care of Houma and Thibodaux, where practically all the money makers live, ”said Albert Naquin, traditional chief of the island tribe of Jean Charles Biloxi. -Chitimacha-Choctaw. “At the bottom of the bayou, they don’t care. It’s like with Zeta – the parish of Terrebonne didn’t have much damage, but they didn’t care to visit where all the Indians lived in Pointe-aux-Chênes or on the island. “
Following: At World’s End: Recovery Begins in Decimated Coastal Community of Grand Isle
The impact of the storm on schools has been immense, especially for students with special needs.
At least 300,000 students were not enrolled in school immediately after Ida. School buildings in southeast Louisiana suffered extensive damage, and with much of the area without water or electricity a month after the storm, 70,000 students remained displaced until September.
We told the story of Gypsy Collins and her son Brandon Parfait who spent most of their days trying to find normalcy in a tent city. Schoolwork was part of their afternoon routine. Perfect has Down syndrome, and since Hurricane Ida caused chaos in the Southeast Louisiana school system, Collins has “homeschooled” him, even though their house was destroyed.
Perfect has asthma and Collins didn’t want to send her to a school with mold problems. Parents feared that all schools since Ida would have mold problems.
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