The sun's shining brightly, but the bucolic family scene is no vacation. Thirty members of the extended family from St. Bernard Parish have found refuge in the quiet cabins of Lake Fausse Pointe State Park. Thirteen parks in the state system have thrown open their log cabin doors to house evacuees from Hurricane Katrina; seven parks are closed until further notice due to the storm. The system has waived fees for rentals for the month of September, and the cabins become available on a first-come, first-serve basis, as some evacuees return to their homes.
For the Ramirez family, that won't be for a long, long time.
St. Bernard officials have announced that the parish, which is almost entirely submerged, won't be open for six months to a year. Just how long the family can hold out in the park is a question they consider every day. While the park is lush and serene and the cabins are comfortable, being 45 minutes away from the nearest government offices in New Iberia or St. Martinville has caused problems. The most acute challenge is the lack of cell phone service.
There's no signal in the park. Evacuees have attempted standing on top of the Atchafalaya Basin levee just outside of the park for cell service, but coupled with the frustration of calling FEMA, which can take days, it's a nearly insurmountable situation. To help, the office at the park has made a computer available to evacuees living in the park. Manager Waylon King estimates there are about 30 families sharing 18 cabins currently, and the massive diaspora of people ' the extended family of Ramirezs, Bernards, Robertsons and Diecidues ' feel like they are being lost in the shuffle.
"Everything in the U.S. government is all confused," Suzanne Bernard says. Her nephew, Rickey Diecidue Jr., can barely contain his anger at what he says is total incompetence. "To begin with, the people who answer the phone at FEMA are rude. They don't listen when you are trying to tell them something. They asked us for an address. All they would take is our Violet address. We tried to tell them there was no post office left in Violet, no mailbox, no house. But they mailed the check to St. Bernard Parish anyway."
"We called FEMA back," says Wanda Robertson, Ricky's mother. "We told them we don't have any money, that they sent our checks to St. Bernard. We asked, 'What should we do?' They told us to go to a shelter."
Before the storm, the extended family of shrimpers and oil field workers lived closely intertwined lives in the small town of Violet, located between the Mississippi River and Lake Borgne below New Orleans. Some fled the storm, some rode it out on the Ramirez family's shrimp boat before finding sanctuary together at Lake Fausse Pointe. They have lost most of what they own and say that their first priority is to find a place for the whole family to live.
"We don't know which way to turn," Suzanne Bernard says. "What's holding us together is that we are a strong family. All we have left in the world is each other. Nobody came to rescue us in St. Bernard. We had to rescue ourselves. We are the forgotten people."
James and Juana Adams and their children have a brighter outlook at Cypremort Point State Park on the edge of Vermilion Bay. Six cabins rise 17 feet above the beach, affording residents salt breezes and views of spectacular sunsets. There are cell phone towers at The Point, and the Lydia branch library, about 10 miles away, has several computers available to the public. The Adams family's house in Kenner, just blocks from Lake Pontchartrain, was flooded with a foot of water. John Adams, an engineer for Edison Chouest Offshore, still has a job. He's making plans to go home as soon as possible and begin ripping out carpets and sheetrock to get his house back in order.
"All in all, we fared well, considering," he says. "FEMA came this morning. People are getting their $2,000. The Red Cross comes out once a day with cooked supper."
"We're lucky," he adds. "It's beautiful here. I'm going to buy a powerball ticket. Every day, our luck's getting better."
The Lafayette Parish School Board's mishandling of its insurance selection process over the last two years has caught the attention of the FBI.
Kids under 18 will have to pursue skin cancer the old-fashioned way.
Lafayette Parish School Board member Kermit Bouillion says he will defend his District 5 seat in the upcoming election.
The Louisiana chapter of Americans for Prosperity sent the pledge request to all 144 lawmakers in February.
The 5-foot-10, 203-pound former second-round pick has gone to three Pro Bowls in his five seasons.
The state argues that if they identify how they're getting the drugs, they could have trouble buying more because companies don't want to be known as helping in an execution.
The enrollment period ends this month.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, March 12, 2014:
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.