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."
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.