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'It's been a hard year': Terrebonne Parish struggles to recover after Hurricane Ida

Kezia Setyawan
Carolyn Marcel and Kenneth Scott Jr. in their FEMA trailer in Chauvin.

It’s been one year since the destructive Category 4 Hurricane Ida made landfall in Southeast Louisiana on August 29th, and Terrebonne Parish is still slowly trudging on to recovery. While some pockets of the coastal parish have made strides, other parts down the bayou still look as damaged as they appeared in the days after the 2021 storm.

For the one-year anniversary of the storm making landfall in Louisiana, WWNO and WRKF spoke to residents who are still dealing with a grueling post-storm recovery.

Carolyn Marcel and Kenneth Scott Jr. had been living in their FEMA trailer since December, located where their old house used to be in Chauvin before it was totaled by Hurricane Ida. They stayed down the bayou in another family member’s brick house. When the storm passed over them on Aug. 29, they were certain the home they were hunkering down in would get ruined too.

“We rocked all day in the house. It was a brick house, but that house shook. We watched all the houses all around us and the trailers — everything blew up and sheds (were) rolling down people's yards,” Marcel said.

Scott remembers the whistling noise from the wind. After the storm, Marcel and Scott found their house totaled.

“It was hard seeing everything that you have all scattered all over the place. We found most of our stuff we wanted to save, but we didn't find everything,” Marcel said. “We have a few things that we'll never find. And you work hard to get what you want. And next thing you know, it's all been taken from you."

Now, they’ve purchased a house in need of repairs on the street where Marcel grew up in Chauvin. They’re just happy to have their own place again – regardless of how long it will take to fix it up.

“You gotta start from nothing to something — then you gotta work all the way up to where you was at,” Scott said. “And that just takes a little time.”

The year since Ida has been marked by tragedy for Marcel, who lost her father and one of her brothers during that time.

“It's been a hard year since the hurricane. Too much heartache and too much loss. But I'm proud of where we are now. We have a place to call home, and I can't wait to be in it,” Marcel said.

Kezia Setyawan
Chad Smith behind the counter of of Trap Seafood & Wing Spot in eastside Houma.

Chad Smith made the decision to stay with his family in Houma during the storm to be able to gain quick access to their restaurant, Trap Seafood & Wing Spot, after the storm passed. But after hunkering down during Ida, Smith said he will never put his family through anything like that again.

“The storm felt like it sat on us for about 12 hours. We witnessed roofs coming off buildings. All of our vehicles got damaged. Trees were falling all around us. Things blowing up and down the street. It was like a horror movie.”

After the storm, it took more than 8 months to reopen the restaurant — with residents around town telling Smith about their support and asking when they would be back.

But even before then, Smith and his team were able to give back to the community during the time of recovery, passing out water and giving out fried fish and red beans — something that tasted like home for his neighbors.

“We call it ‘food for culture.’ It was incredible during that time to be able to give the people of the area something that they were familiar with,” Smith said. “Especially during that time of hardship, just something familiar. Something to make them smile, something to really satisfy their taste buds.”

That moment of stepping up during Ida recovery even influenced a new dish on their menu: “My Momma’s red beans.”

Kezia Setyawan
Zachary Moen outside of his family home in Gray.

It was a no-brainer for Zachary Moen’s family to hunker down during Hurricane Ida. For him, staying was a way to ensure that there would be less damage to the home.

“It was definitely pretty frightening. At one point I had to hold the doors closed — otherwise they were gonna blow in,” Moen said.

The storm eventually passed though, and it was the aftermath that Moen witnessed that was the most shocking part of the storm.

“On the first day after the storm, I decided to take a ride through town, (and it was) almost unrecognizable,” Moen said. “Like the places that I've seen for over 20 years now did not look the same at all — trash everywhere, destroyed houses that you always pass by on the way to work completely gone.”

Moen said that they’re not ready for the next storm, as he and other residents still fight against bureaucratic red tape, insurance companies that create barriers to repair funds and the roof on the family home that still isn’t fixed.

“It makes you mad too. And it's not like there's a guarantee that there's gonna be no storm next year. The insurance companies know that,” Moen said.

Kezia Setyawan
Darien, Jayden and Ethel Dardar on the ramp of their FEMA trailer placed in front of their totaled home damaged by Hurricane Ida in Pointe-aux-Chenes.

Ethel Dardar is the guardian of her two grandkids, Jayden, 12, and Darien, 11, who also has cerebral palsy. The family evacuated to Texas for about a month to stay with one of her daughters, and during that time, Ethel kept thinking about how her home would fare.

Ethel said she has difficulty remembering what she and her family endured because the aftermath was so stressful.

She only received $14,000 for repairs on her home, which she said is nowhere near enough. Now in a FEMA trailer, she still doesn’t know what the future holds.

“I just broke down,” Ethel said. “I didn't know where it was gonna go from there.”

As for Jayden, he said coming back home after the evacuation was a shock seeing the house for the first time.

“I was very surprised by how much damage had been done to the inside but not to the outside — the outside looked pretty normal,” Jayden said. “I was very happy to save some items from my room and stuff, like the TV. Both of the other TVs had been chewed up by rats and stuff.”

In the weeks after, Jayden was forced to return to school — as if nothing had happened and despite the fact that the family was still waiting for their FEMA trailer. It wouldn’t be until December, nearly four months after Ida, when the Dardar family moved into their temporary housing.

“I was kinda angry,” Jayden said. “They want us to go to school, even though we didn't even have a house.”

A year later, Jayden said that most of his classmates are doing better and even have fully repaired homes.

“I hope I have a permanent home soon,” he said.

Kezia Setyawan is a coastal reporter for WWNO and WRKF and is based out of Houma.