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."
Citizens, you have less than a week to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election. Remember, if you don’t vote you can’t complain about the outcome. Well, you can but it’s kind of hypocritical.
After being forced out by its former landlords last year, the community garden has a new location and a 10-year lease.
The party says it has hit a milestone, reaching 10,000 registered voters in the state.
Defensive captain Junior Galette is disgusted by the Saints' sluggish start.
The use of $60 million in Louisiana's public school financing formula to pay for nearly three dozen charter schools violates the state constitution, a statewide teachers' union claimed Monday in a lawsuit.
Security breach at White House; Bejing won't back down from protesters; pressure on third-graders and more national and international news for Tuesday, September 30, 2014.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
February trial date indicates parties were unable to negotiate a settlement.
Gov. Bobby Jindal has been viewed as a health care policy wonk, and he's tried to build on that image ahead of a likely 2016 presidential campaign, positioning himself as the candidate with substantive ideas.
Jerry Jones watched what he called the best effort he's seen in 25 years as owner of the Dallas Cowboys in the first half, and that was before Tony Romo had the longest scramble of his career and DeMarco Murray finished off yet another 100-yard game.
Two of the most recognizable women in Republican politics, Sarah Palin and Mary Matalin, have been heavily involved in Louisiana’s current election cycle.
Even though the Louisiana Democratic Party has thrown its support behind former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ congressional bid, national Democrats are not expected to follow suit.
“[Mike] is no longer the energetic ADA that his recent ad is trying to portray. I just think Mike needs to get the hell out.” — Kermit Harson, DA Mike Harson’s brother
The New Orleans Saints have listed Jonathan Goodwin as questionable for Sunday night's game in Dallas, raising the prospect that second-year pro Tim Lelito will start at center for the first time.
The endorsements keep coming for District 9 LPSB candidate Jeremy Hidalgo, who picked up his fifth vow of support Thursday, this time from the Chamber’s political action committee.
Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter will be out knocking on doors this weekend with anti-abortion activists encouraging people to vote against his colleague, Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
The ACLU of Louisiana has sued Abbeville's mayor and police chief over a policy barring police from any social media use showing the city in a bad light.
Prospective Republican presidential candidates are expected to promote "religious liberty" at home and abroad at a gathering of religious conservatives Friday, with anti-Obama speeches from the likes of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
The American Zombie blog by New Orleans independent journalist Jason Berry has a photograph of U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier having dinner with Lafayette attorney Pat Juneau — yeah, that Pat Juneau, the BP claims administrator whose fate Barbier will soon decide.
But retirees and employees who face the higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs responded angrily, telling lawmakers that they shouldn't be held responsible for what they consider the Jindal administration's mismanagement of the Office of Group Benefits.
Indictment accuses ‘chef’ who claims to work for the needy of stealing from a disabled man in his care.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's top budget adviser says the state employee health insurance program will face a dire financial scenario without the heavily criticized changes planned by the administration.
Louisiana's last execution was in 2010, and plans for the next lethal injection have been put on hold amid an ongoing legal dispute about the drugs that would be used. More than 80 people are on death row, awaiting execution, in Louisiana.
If the Saints' defense hasn't corrected early season errors it could be in for a long Sunday night.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is traveling to the Citgo refinery near Lake Charles to highlight her successful stalling of a bill to impose sanctions against human-rights abusers in Venezuela's government.