Recovery efforts begin following Hurricane Ida

Michael Tortorich
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
A Mobil gas pump at Popingos in Donaldsonville was wrapped after running out of fuel.

After Hurricane Ida tore through southeast Louisiana Aug. 29, recovery efforts began at sunrise the next day.

Landing as a Category 4, the hurricane eventually weakened to a Category 1 as it moved north overnight. The weather was clear in the morning as residents and crews were able to see the damage in the daylight. Many immediately went to work.

Ascension Parish deputies as well as parish and municipal personnel were out removing debris following the hurricane. DOTD crews were out as well, clearing fallen trees along U.S. Hwy. 61 near Hwy. 22 and Hwy. 30. 

Ascension Parish Unified Command called for a dusk to dawn curfew beginning Aug. 29. It was extended a second night, according to Sheriff Bobby Webre.

In a statement, Ascension Parish President Clint Cointment said the focus has shifted to recovery.

The parish maintained an emergency shelter at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales for anyone whose home was uninhabitable.

"This is tough, but so are we! The resilience of our people and the way we help one another always amazes me and makes me proud," Cointment said.

DOTD crews work to clear U.S. Hwy. 61 Hwy. 22 and Hwy. 30 in Ascension Parish.

The aftermath of Hurricane Ida brought an array of issues as recovery began:

  • Widespread power outages left residents in the dark and without air conditioning. As of 8 a.m. Monday, Entergy reported that 857,722 of their customers were reporting power outages, most of which are concentrated in Louisiana and Mississippi. Demco reported 112,376 without power. According to a text message sent to Entergy customers, more than 20,000 line crews were deployed to Louisiana to assist with power restoration efforts.
  • Across the region, communication was hampered due to a major outage for AT&T.
  • Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, Louisiana’s largest hospital, was fully operational and on regular power. Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital was on regular power and fully operational as well. Our Lady of the Lake Ascension was on generator power and suffered roof damage on its outpatient surgery center with water damage in the building. Patient care was not impacted and the hospital was fully operational.
  • Linemen working the area said they were “attacking” outages at hospitals, police stations and other emergency locations before they moved on to the rest of the community to restore power.
About 24 hours after Hurricane Ida made landfall in southeast Louisiana, lines of people waited Aug. 30 to fill cans with gas at Veillon’s in Prairieville.

Journalists from our sister newspaper, the Lafayette Advertiser, documented the situation in the parish Aug. 30.

They reported lines of people waiting to fill cans with gas at Veillon's in Prairieville. The building had sustained damage, with metal roofing peeled and lying twisted on the ground, and its doors and windows remained boarded. The pumps were still working and accepting credit cards after work apparently spread via Facebook.

Frank’s Restaurant Grill & Bar is among the few places that remain with power in Prairieville Aug. 30 after Hurricane Ida struck. The restaurant has a long history of serving others after storms like this, a member of the restaurant’s founding family said.

A crowd was spotted at Frank's Restaurant in Prairieville, as it was one of the few places with electricity due to generators.

Frank’s has a long history of serving others after storms like this, a member of the restaurant’s founding family said.

“Come rain, shine, hurricane, whatever the weather — we are always, always here to serve the community,” Deborah Dedman said. “We have done that since 1964.” 

Dedman’s father, Frank Sr., opened the restaurant, which also has a branch in Baton Rouge. Today Frank Jr. and his wife own the business and Frank III manages the Prairieville location, where Deborah was answering phones and questions about how late they would be open Monday (6 p.m.) and what they were serving (spaghetti or seafood stew with a giant biscuit). Several workers were on hand Monday to serve plate lunches and bus tables for a steady stream of people. They would be splitting tips at the end of the very busy day.

"We have just instilled in all our workers that we are such a team,” Deborah Dedman said. “We just come together and make it happen.”

Midway store in Donaldsonville serves customers Aug. 30. Despite widespread power outages, the store was able to remain open with a generator.

On the westbank of the parish, many cleaned up debris and removed downed trees throughout the day. 

Traffic lights were out and few businesses were able to open. 

One open store was Midway Grocery on Railroad Avenue. It was operational due to generator power, and several customers were inside picking up items.

Vehicles lined up at Sunshine Truck Plaza gas station at the foot of the Sunshine Bridge near Donaldsonville after Hurricane Ida rolled through the region Aug. 30.

The quest to find gas proved to be a difficult one throughout the area. 

According to a report from Livingston Parish, a person was shot after an argument over fuel escalated. 

In addition to a hurricane-related death in Prairieville the previous night, a second death was reported in New Orleans. According to Louisiana Department of Health, a male drowned after his vehicle was caught in flood water near Interstate 10 and West End Blvd. His age was unknown.