"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."
State Rep. Lenar Whitney — one of a handful of Republican candidates vying for Louisiana’s 6th Congressional district — has been described by Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman as one of the most “frightening or fact-averse candidate[s]” he’s ever met following her reaction to an interview last week.
Mid-August hearing dates have been set for dueling lawsuits over Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards in public schools.
An investigation into the last-minute passage of a pension hike for the state police superintendent continues, despite Col. Mike Edmonson's decision not to accept the increase.
Safety Jairus Byrd practiced with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday for the first time since his signing in March.
Sentencing has been delayed for a businessman who provided key testimony in the corruption case that resulted in the conviction of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
The spectre of priest sex abuse has returned to haunt the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette following the recent release of an investigative report by Minnesota Public Radio, revealing new allegations of another child predator hiding behind the clerical collar.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Times Square impersonator crackdown; Israel shells Gaza school; Russia hit with sanctions and more national and international news for Wednesday, July 30, 2014.
The sponsor of a Louisiana law that requires doctors that perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges doesn't believe the provision is in jeopardy after a federal appeals court struck down a similar Mississippi law.
Louisiana's state school board has jumped into a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal that accuses the governor of illegally meddling in education policy through his efforts to block Common Core education standards.
Here's how one nationally recognized conservative political pundit reacted upon hearing the news Monday that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was leaning toward an endorsement of Louisiana’s lone Democrat senator.
With the qualifying deadline for Lafayette Parish School Board elections quickly approaching, a series of candidate forums have been announced by the Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council.
The investigation and potential prosecution of the man charged in the recent hit-and-run death of a Youngsville cyclist won’t happen overnight, according to local law enforcement officials.
Louisiana's state school board is holding a special meeting to consider whether to sue Gov. Bobby Jindal in an ongoing dispute over the Common Core education standards.
A bipartisan congressional deal to help improve veterans' health care access includes approval for new veterans clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles.
It wouldn’t be a first, however, as the Chamber has thrown money behind Landrieu before.
The Democratic incumbent, seeking her fourth term in office, is a strong supporter of the Export-Import Bank, which helps finance exports of U.S. companies.
The world is a politically tense place these days with hot spots ranging from the Middle East to Ukraine. In Louisiana and Mississippi, where the political chessboard tends to be a lot less threatening and at times entertaining, this election season is living up to expectations.
Louisiana has joined nine other states in support of Indiana’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that the Hoosier State’s ban on sam-sex marriage violates the Constitution.
The Saints are being cautious in an effort to minimize risk of re-injury.
LSU Health Sciences Center says people with a common, hard-to-treat kind of lung cancer can join a new national trial to test drugs faster.
As New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis spoke about the opening of training camp, steep, tree-covered mountains were in full view behind them.
The family of fallen cyclist Lon Lomas is speaking out after the release this week of the man charged with his death.
"The solutions are obvious: undo consolidation, or amend the charter to make this hybrid attempt at a new form of government work better."
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal for his attempts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools.