With little gas or electricity, relief seems far away for hurricane-battered Hammond | New

After suffering from Hurricane Ida at a Red Cross shelter in Hammond on Sunday night, Dianna Shell had only one thing in mind: to go home to save her dog.

The two were separated during the storm because Shell had no idea the hurricane was approaching her door, she said. Living in the woods near Ponchatoula without cable TV, she learned of Ida’s existence when she went to get gasoline on Sunday afternoon and was arrested by police, who took her to the shelter by Hammond.

Four days later, Shell hitchhiked home and swam through the floodwaters to reach the gate, she said. The house was destroyed but the trip was worth it. His best friend, a former wanderer named Brandywine, survived the storm.

Shell threw the approximately 50-pound dog onto its shoulders, waded down the aisle, and began planning their next move.

For many in Hammond and surrounding communities, the road to recovery seems long and arduous after hurricane-force winds uprooted trees and left the power grid in chaos, with downed power lines and broken utility poles. tangled along rural roads and highways. Almost all of Hammond’s 21,000-plus residents remained without power on Saturday, and Entergy officials said Tangipahoa parish is likely to experience blackouts until September 17.

Several of the last remaining cots in the Greenville Leadership Academy shelter contain the personal effects of evacuees in Hammond, Louisiana, on Saturday, September 4, 2021. The shelter is scheduled to close at 8 a.m. today.

But the city planned to close its Red Cross shelter at Greenville Park Leadership Academy early Sunday morning, offering displaced residents a shuttle to the River Center in downtown Baton Rouge, according to Red Cross volunteers. .

For Shell and others, it was just too far away. Shell wants to stay near Brandywine, who has found temporary accommodation in the parish animal shelter. Another family said they had little gas and almost no money for the trip. They have weighed their options, including a shelter in Kentwood that will stay open longer.

Parish president Robby Miller said on Saturday evening officials were closing some shelters that were not air conditioned, trying to get people to better housing. He said the Kentwood High School shelter, which is air-conditioned, will stay open for as long as needed. He said displaced pets will also be protected.

“These facilities were a last resort to get you through the early days, but we need better, longer-term solutions to take care of our citizens,” Miller said. “There is nothing ideal about being away from home.”

The parish is also in shock after the emergency evacuation Thursday of about 800 residents of a nursing home, who had been moved to an overcrowded warehouse in Independence before Ida reached land, then subjected to inhumane conditions after air conditioning failure and other problems. Seven patients have died and various state agencies are investigating.

After taking care of his dog, Shell hoped his flooded car could roll. His first stop would be to wait in line for gas amid severe shortages that still plague much of Southeast Louisiana. Then she had to replace her cell phone, which died when the car flooded, and call FEMA for housing assistance.

But all she wanted to talk about was Brandywine, a pit bull and Catahoula hound mix that had been ditched months earlier and then adopted by Shell.

“She cried like a baby when I got home, and so did I,” said Shell, sitting on her cot inside the Red Cross shelter on Saturday afternoon. She held up her yellow bracelet with the name of the local pet evacuation shelter, pledging to find a new home soon – for herself and Brandywine.

When Linda Fabre and her mother saw Hurricane Ida targeting the south of the parish of Tangipahoa, they strategically chose a room at the back to the south …

While Shell was destitute because her house was flooded, she was in the minority. Most people in Tangipahoa escaped the rising waters, but faced prolonged power outages during the sweltering summer heat. After days literally spent in the dark, some residents said that a Saturday morning Entergy screening – showing the restoration date of September 17 – gave them some hope.

“I just pray it doesn’t take any longer,” said Teresa Ragusa, looking sadly at a tangle of power lines outside her home in downtown Hammond. “I keep trying to pretend we’re camping.”

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Ragusa had two granddaughters in her house because their house did not have running water. The girls, aged 9 and 11, had just returned to school before the storm hit, and now even virtual lessons are impossible for the foreseeable future, let alone extracurricular activities.

They were bored. Tired of picking up fallen branches, washing clothes in the sink, and eating canned food.

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Clothes are drying on the fence of Teresa Ragusa’s home in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in Hammond, Louisiana on Saturday, September 4, 2021. Ragusa has washed her clothes in a sink under her shelter since losing some water. electricity because of the storm.

At least they could shower. Meanwhile, their mother and stepfather drew water from their swimming pool to flush the toilet. Their home north of Hammond has well water, but the pump stopped working when the power went out. Tara Lightner described how she and her husband ran buckets of pool water out of the bathroom window.

They have a small gas generator, powerful enough to run two fans and charge their phones, but not enough to run the pump. Late Saturday morning, fans were targeting their 15-month-old son, Asher, who was rolling around in his playpen, sometimes screaming and intermittently throwing stuffed animals on the ground.

“Everyone is hot,” Tara Lightner said. She had barely slept the night before between the heat and a toothache, which had recently started to bother her.

Her husband, Howard Daniel Lightner, is a truck driver – a blessing because he can bring gasoline home from faraway places, but a curse because he has to leave his family for days in dire conditions. .

A few miles away, at the Courtyard Apartments, Charles Rapp and Shirley Montgomery were keeping each other company Saturday afternoon, sitting in the ribbon of shadow produced by an overhang.

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Shirley Montgomery (right) and Charles Rapp try to keep cool in the shade outside their damaged apartment buildings in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in Hammond, Louisiana on Saturday, September 4, 2021.

“We’re too old and too hot, just sitting here watching the birds and the mess,” Rapp said with a resigned smile.

Downed trees and power lines littered their compound, though the buildings miraculously suffered little damage. Both neighbors drank hot water and complained, hoping someone would come and bring some ice, which is almost as elusive as gas these days.

Rapp said he believes resources are lacking for some residents, especially those without reliable transportation. He gets around by bicycle, which makes it even more difficult because most of the shelters and food distribution places are only accessible by car, Rapp said.

Montgomery, who drives, was in an accident on Tuesday while trying to run errands after the storm. She swerved to avoid a fallen tree and ended up hitting another, causing extensive damage to the front of her car, she said. She hoped for a rental, which would allow her to resume her home help job.

Miller, the parish president, said if people are in desperate need of supplies and lack transportation, they can call the Tangipahoa Parish government for help at (985) 748-3211.

Meanwhile, in downtown Hammond, owners and patrons of The Red, White & Brew – a bar and liquor store on East Thomas Street – were enjoying a sticky situation on Saturday afternoon. Owner Todd Delaune said it reopened earlier in the week after customers donated a generator and some gas to keep the business running. It was enough to power industrial fans and an ice maker.

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Todd Delaune, owner of Red, White & Brew, points out signs of storm damage in downtown Hammond in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida on Saturday, September 4, 2021. Red, White & Brew is one of rare shops in downtown Hammond, La., open and providing drinks and wifi to the many residents without electricity.

“You bring me gasoline, I give you alcohol,” Delaune said, smiling broadly. “We’re sort of going back to a barter system. Here in Hammond, people are coming together.”

The atmosphere was jovial and Delaune hoped that the electricity would return to the city center soon. In the meantime, he said, everyone is welcome to come have a drink.

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