"I think we had 109 trees or parts of trees that had fallen either on homes, fences, garages, cars, some type of structure," says delaHoussaye. "To my knowledge, there were no injuries. We did lose a couple of homes where trees went through the center of the home, one or two completely destroyed." The city was without electricity for five days or more in some areas. Lee Hebert, director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for Acadia Parish, says the electricity is back on in about 90 percent of the parish, as is water and sewage.
Acadia Parish was under a voluntary evacuation for Hurricane Rita, and most of its damage came from sustained tornadic force winds. "All day Saturday, we were in that tornado area," says delaHoussaye. "I know that a tornado hit a barn and put it into a Cleco substation." The city quickly entered into a contract with the Office of Emergency Preparedness for cleanup, and most of the streets are clear. But huge piles of debris and tree limbs are piled in front of almost every home, lining streets as far as the eye can see. Hebert says more than half the parish is still waiting to be cleaned.
In south Crowley, one of the oldest sections of town, Ted Taylor stands in his front yard looking bewildered as he surveys the hole in his attic caused by a Sycamore tree. The tree's trunk and roots now lie on the side of the house, and the hole is loosely covered with tarp. "I was totally redoing the whole thing," says house painter Taylor. His home is a two-story, pink Victorian home dating back to 1904 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
He holds up a photograph of the home pre-Rita. Its elegant front has wide, double porches, white railings, and two gables decorate the top.
The bottom porch floor is all that remains on the front of the house. It's covered with splintered wood and pieces of railing, and a white wicker chair is crushed under debris on one side.
Taylor says the tree fell around 2:30 a.m. Sept. 24, right after he went to bed. "I was on the porch about a half hour before, and the wind just didn't sound right," he says. He's not sure if a tornado came through. "I had lots of water damage. It was like a waterfall down the stairs. I had to drill holes in the floor so the water could drain." The home isn't livable, and Taylor is staying in a camper in his driveway. A second tree behind the house was also uprooted and broke the main water line. Taylor plans to cut it down. "I've learned my lesson," he says. "They're beautiful trees, but they're not worth it."
Not far from Taylor's home are the railroad tracks and the Crowley office of Family Support, where food stamps are being handed out until Oct. 14. A line of people a block long wait in the hot sun, many holding umbrellas for shade. Shelli Britt is near the end of the line with her son Wesley. The Jennings resident decided to come to Crowley after seeing the crowds waiting for assistance in her hometown. "The line wraps around the block there," she says. "I wasn't going to wait that long." The power in her home is still out, and her home and property are damaged.
The landscape of Jennings, on the border of Jeff Davis and Acadia parishes, looks similar to Crowley. The white tin roof blew off of Our Lady Immaculate Catholic Elementary School on the way into town, and sections of the roof lay in a pile in the grass. The downtown area and its historic Strand Theatre and Ziegler Museum are relatively untouched, but part of the roof of the fire station peeled off.
By 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon, the Food Stamp line at the Jeff Davis Parish Office of Family Support has gone down and wraps around the parking lot instead of the entire block. The skies are getting cloudy, and the wind picks up. Veronica McBride from Lake Charles has been in line since 1 p.m., and ignores the darkening skies. "What kind of weather? Do I need to take shelter?" she asks sarcastically. Just then, rain starts coming down in large bursts. Some people scatter; others take out umbrellas or huddle under a tent.
Off the interstate, the Jennings Oil & Gas Park and its Alligator House tourist attraction are open, and manager Lou Anna Carty is holding a baby alligator named Nemo. "I've had lots of tree spotters and tree cutters here today," says Carty. "I've had the National Guard here." A paramedic from Colorado just left, asking where to find Louisiana souvenirs.
Carty rode out the storm in her home in Jennings and was out of power for eight days. "I can remember how we felt when Katrina hit," she says. "People coming by, and they were displaced. Now, we're the ones."
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.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday, March 06, 2014:
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?
(It's good, it's bad and it's just crazy)
Can state lawmakers find the nerve — and the votes — to neuter payday lenders?
A calm demeanor has served Gerald Boudreaux well — in his career, passion for sports and in life. And it could be just what his district needs in the state Senate.
Acadiana Catholics* react to Francis
The circumstances surrounding the Jan. 26 fire of the 18,000-square-foot home on Verot School Road seemed strange, but what's even more bizarre is the back-story behind owner Ralph Wadleigh.
Choice cuts from Acadiana's news media for Friday, Feb. 28, 2014: