By Bonnie Culverhouse
“I just remember there were no birds … from Grand Isle to Thibodaux … you couldn’t see or hear any birds,” said Sibley Mayor Jimmy Williams, following a trek to the southern tip of Louisiana and the site of destruction from Hurricane Ida.
The only sound was heavy machinery, moving four to five feet of sand from roadways, so residents could travel to and from what remains of their homes.
Williams was there to deliver donations from the Town of Sibley and to meet with the Louisiana Municipal Association, of which he is past president.
“Words can’t describe what we saw,” he said. “Pictures don’t do it justice It looks like a bomb exploded.”
Affected areas also include Houma, Slidell, Lockport and Golden Meadow.
LMA has already made donations of water, generators and other much-needed items. In fact, Williams said, someone from the LMA staff makes a daily trip from Baton Rouge with supplies to one of the affected areas.
“The people’s eyes just lit up when we delivered supplies,” Williams said. “The mayor of Lockport, Edward Reinhardt, had tears in his eyes because they were running out of everything. When we got to Grand Isle … it’s just sad. Those people lost everything.”
Williams said Grand Isle mayor David Camardelle, is currently living in “half a house. The other half is blown off.” Winds there were clocked at 195 mph. When asked why he stays, Camardelle responds, “This is home.”
Williams said Camardelle made an interesting point. Grand Isle is a barrier island to New Orleans. If Grand Isle is wiped out during a hurricane or other natural disaster, New Orleans ceases to exist.
Residences built post Katrina were still at least partially in tact, Williams said. Many of them were constructed on concrete piers. Others were completely destroyed.
“The residents that stayed, they aren’t leaving,” Williams said. “These are their homes. They don’t want to leave.”
But one of the biggest problems in staying … and returning to some semblance of normalcy … is the lack of power.
Williams said it is predicted those towns will not have power restored before some time in November or December.
“I think that’s a conservative estimate,” he said. “All the transmission lines that go through the swamp … they’re gone.”
At this point, Williams said LMA has met and the next step is to provide as many generators as possible to the area.
“We want the individual 6,000 to 8,000-watt generators that will allow people to hook up their refrigerators and a fan so they can stay kind of cool at night,” he said. “At least they will have something.”
Williams was very complimentary of LMA Executive Director John Gallagher, as well as Cliff Palmer, executive director of LaMATS (Louisiana Municipal advisory and Technical Services Bureau) and Patrick Cronin, RMI (Risk Management, Inc.) General Manager for contributions of AC units, water and ice for Golden Meadow and Grand Isle. Around 40 generators have been purchased, and now they want to collect as many donations as possible to purchase more.
“We will store some in north Louisiana, as well as south Louisiana,” Williams said, “so when a municipality has a need, we don’t have to go buy them.”
He said gas cans are a necessity, too.
Williams said the Louisiana Army National Guard has been trucking in gasoline, and lines are extremely long.
Monetary donations are preferred, and LMA will determine transport after the generators are purchased.
To help the people of So. Louisiana, please send your donations to:
LMA Disaster Fund
Town of Sibley
345 N. Main
Sibley, LA 71073
LMA Disaster Fund
City of Minden
Minden, LA 71055
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