Home Emergency In two Louisiana towns hard-hit by Ida, residents recall frenzied exits, a...

In two Louisiana towns hard-hit by Ida, residents recall frenzied exits, a night of terror

But at the urging of his wife, Durocher, 41, looked up photos of the damage wrought by other big and powerful storms. He realized that Ida could very well flatten his city.

The couple, along with two of their children, left town at 4 a.m. Saturday and headed to a grandparent’s property in Alabama. A drive that normally takes four hours took them 10, he said.

Durocher said most folks he knows stayed in Houma. Everybody had their reasons: Some stayed because previous warnings about ominous storms ultimately fizzled out; others were just cavalier about the threat of natural disasters.

“‘We got a freezer full of shrimp.’ That’s the mentality,” Durocher said.

Then the storm hit.

Durocher, a project manager with a shipyard, heard from people who lost their homes. He saw pleas for help on social media. In one case, an employee’s trailer was destroyed. In another, Facebook friends circulated a message about a man in his neighborhood who needed assistance after the roof of his home collapsed.

The house owner Alzile Marie Hand, 66, right, is being comforted by her son Thomas James Hand, 19, outside of their damaged house after Hurricane Ida passed through in Houma, La., on Aug. 30, 2021.Go Nakamura / for The Washington Post via Getty Images

“He was wearing a motorcycle helmet in the bathtub with a mattress on top of him,” he said.

Durocher saw photos of leveled homes, trailers flipped on their sides, buildings pulverized. In a video he said was recorded a few blocks from his home, an entire roof can be seen twisting in the wind and somersaulting into power lines.

He felt grateful to have left, blessed to have avoided the worst — and a pang of guilt.

“It’s silly. But when you’re watching everyone’s lives being destroyed and they’re losing their homes, it’s natural to feel that way,” he said.

‘We thought we could ride it out’

Andie Chiasson, an economics instructor at Nicholls State University, did not evacuate. She stayed in Thibodaux with her husband, their 5-year-old son and their two dogs.

Chiasson, 40, was born in southeast Louisiana, and she has lived through several major hurricanes — always without going far from home.

“I’m one of those crazy people who don’t leave, to be quite honest,” she said.

Chiasson said she believed that when Ida slammed Thibodaux at the northern tip of Lafourche Parish, presumably far from the destructive force of a massive storm surge, it would be a Category 1 storm.

She and her husband boarded up the windows of their home and prepared to crank up a small gas-run generator when they lost power.

“We thought we could ride it out,” she said. “In hindsight, we definitely would have left. It was a very long and scary night.”

Utility poles lean over a street following Hurricane Ida on Aug. 31, 2021 in Houma, La.Scott Olson / Getty Images

The electricity cut out at 3 p.m. Sunday, she said. The wind picked up an hour or two later and howled all night. She dozed off for a bit around midnight, perking up to listen to tree branches pelting the house and shingles being torn from the roof.

She laid there with her son, who was sound asleep, and she thought of the Pixar movie “The Incredibles,” and the character Violet, whose superpower allows her to generate force fields.

“I kept thinking there would be a protective bubble,” Chiasson said. “That’s what I was holding in my head, that we were going to be OK.”

She found their home mostly intact the next morning, aside from battered trees and a few large patches of missing shingles. She and her husband then walked around their neighborhood, delivering damage reports to neighbors while they still had cell service, looking at tree limbs carpeting the street and whole trees that had fallen onto homes.

Later, when they drove to the house of a friend who still had electricity, they saw roads littered with corrugated awnings, downed power lines and debris everywhere.

“It was pretty catastrophic,” she said.

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