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 superintendent insists the budget is illegal and vows to fight on.
"I am not a scientist," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said numerous times, a response that other members of his party have parroted.
Republicans are running strong races against endangered Democratic incumbents in states such as North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska. Republicans are also looking to replace retiring Democrats in Iowa and West Virginia with a GOP lawmaker.
Republican congressman Vance McAllister is trying to make up to Louisiana voters for getting too close to a married former employee.
You may not like all of “it,” but U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, unlike many of her colleagues, isn't sitting around twiddling her thumbs in Congress.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro says he "can't wait" to play against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The heat keeps rising for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal as a new slate of corruption allegations surfaced this week.
If opposing defenses sell out to stop the Packers' passing game, they risk being gashed by powerful running back Eddie Lacy, a New Orleans-area native.
At the horn the officiating crew trotted to the tunnel and left security personnel to clean up after them.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Sign "ninjas" cleaning up clutter; NYC doctor positive for Ebola; Ferguson grand jury decision nears; and more national and international news for Friday, October 24, 2014.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to win Senate control. The most competitive races, many in states where Obama lost in 2012, remain too close to call.
The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.