As Hurricane Ida battered Louisiana on Sunday night, Daryian Hudson made a desperate plea on Twitter.
“Please help me yall,” she tweeted publicly at 11:07 p.m., along with the address of her grandparents, Evelina and Elliott Leblanc, whom, she said, were stuck in their attic in LaPlace, along the east bank of the Mississippi River. The couple are in their 70s and live with their puppy.
Hudson explained in a series of tweets from Houston, where she lives, that she and her family had contacted the Cajun Navy, volunteer boat owners who aid in disaster relief, but were told that because all of LaPlace was flooded, a team could not be sent to her grandparents until Monday morning.
Hudson said her grandparents had spoken to relatives just before water started rushing through their home. LaPlace is northwest of New Orleans.
“So in that moment, they were calm, but 10 minutes later, we received a call from my aunt telling us that they had to get to somewhere safe in the house,” she said.
By that time, water had reached 5 feet in their home, Hudson said. Her grandparents, who were without power and cellphone service, rushed to their attic with their dog. Hudson said she instinctually sought help on Twitter.
“My immediate thought was, spread the word so I can get help,” she said. “And after that, there was so much support.”
Her initial plea was retweeted more than 2,600 times as of early Monday afternoon and many people responded with advice.
The Leblancs waited in their attic for about 12 hours — from 9 p.m. until about 9 a.m. — before being rescued by family who live an hour or so away in New Orleans, Hudson said.
The couple, having endured major damage to their home, were now “somewhere safe,” Hudson said.
Randal Gaines, a state representative who represents St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes, describedthe damage as “catastrophic.”
“It’s the worst that I’ve seen in the 20 years I’ve been in the parish,” he said Monday. “And we’ve seen several hurricanes.”
According to The Times-Picayune, the populations in St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes grew after Hurricane Katrina. LaPlace, with a population of 29,000, is the largest city in St. John the Baptist Parish.
“We’re being told that there was a regional population shift in our direction because of Katrina,” Natalie Robottom, who served as St. John the Baptist Parish president from May 2010 to January 2020, told the Times-Picayune in February 2011. “People came out here after the storm because we were the first place with the lights on. They stayed because there was affordable housing, and good public and private schools.”
About 52.1 percent of LaPlace residents are Black or African American and roughly 41 percent are white, and the per-capita income is relatively low, according to recent census data.
The damage left behind by Ida was the result of high and intense winds that lasted four to five hours, Gaines said.
“And as you can see, results of that was a lot of this water has backed up into the area from the tidal surge that results from the storm that comes in from the south,” Gaines said. He estimated the recovery effort could last weeks.
“The property damage is graphic,” he said. “Every neighbor has incurred a significant amount of property damage.”
Hudson, 19, was born in New Orleans and moved to Houston after Hurricane Katrina struck the area with devastating force in August 2005. She is a student at Southern University and A&M College, a historically Black university, in Baton Rouge.
She said her grandparents, who lived in New Orleans much of their lives, moved to LaPlace about 20 years ago. They are among those in the community who have called for there to be a levee to improve the drainage system in LaPlace and surrounding areas, Hudson said.
Malik Mitchell said that, like the Leblancs, the mother of his 2-month-old daughter sought refuge with the child in an attic after they were trapped in waist-deep water inside a home Sunday.
He said that between the powerful winds, heavy rains and downed trees, it was hard to see anything or to flee Sunday.
“They couldn’t do nothing,” he said. “They all thought they was going to die.”
The water eventually retreated from the attic. Mitchell said he was grateful that his daughter and her mother made it through the night.