Some Louisiana parishes may be without power for months

Hundreds of thousands in Southeast Louisiana are still facing a lack of power, water, and gasoline three days after Hurricane Ida struck the area. President Joe Biden is expected to visit Friday. Overall, more than a million are without power. There were at least seven storm-related deaths across three states. Newshour's community reporter based in New Orleans, Roby Chavez, begins our coverage.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    No electricity, no water, no air conditioning, and a shortage of gasoline, that's what hundreds of thousands of residents of Southeast Louisiana are still facing tonight, three days after Hurricane Ida leveled much of the area and what President Biden will see for himself when he visits on Friday.

    More than a million are without power, and there are at least seven storm-related deaths across three states.

    Roby Chavez, our "NewsHour" communities reporter who is based in New Orleans, begins our coverage.

  • Justin Davis, Louisiana Resident:

    I have never seen this please like this, never.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Justin Davis' whole world now lies in a twisted pile of debris. The neighborhood he's lived on for 35 years is in shambles.

  • Justin Davis:

    I grew up with Hurricane Andrew as a little boy, and this right here just was wow. This is an experience, man. Never forget this. I don't wish nothing like this or nobody to have to go through this in life.

  • Roby Chavez:

    He had planned on hunkering down in his trailer when Hurricane Ida made landfall on Sunday, but he had to take cover before his home collapsed around him. His town in Lafourche Parish had taken a direct hit from the storm.

    Amid sweltering summer heat, where temperatures felt like 105 degrees in parts of the state, Davis is among the hundreds of thousands who remain without electricity, air conditioning or tap water for a third straight day.

    And the search for fuel to power generators is becoming more difficult by the day. In Davis' town of Raceland, residents lined up at a food distribution center today run by the National Guard. But they only received limited supplies for a day.

  • Aldonia Charles, Louisiana Resident:

    We need help real bad.

  • Roby Chavez:

    What did you come here looking for today? And what did you get? And did you get everything…

  • Aldonia Charles:

    I'm satisfied. I came in and I got some water in a box with — and I got a meal, so I'm thankful for that.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Robbie Lee is the director of communications for the Lafourche Parish government. He said, while some residents have begun returning to their homes, he's urging as many as possible to stay away because he expects power won't return for months.

  • Robbie Lee, Lafourche Parish, Louisiana:

    One of the biggest concerns is getting residents to their homes. The roads are very unsafe to travel right now. There's a large amount of power lines down. Right now, we currently have no water at all, no running water, no clean water for residents.

  • Roby Chavez:

    In New Orleans, a glimmer of hope emerged Wednesday, as power was restored to a section of the city. Distribution sites were set up by officials and local charities, where people could receive meals, water and ice, and simply sit and cool off for a few minutes.

    LaToya Cantrell, New Orleans mayor: Primary objectives today are getting our people what they need. We know they need food, water, cool air. And so we are moving forward with the full complement of additional resources on today.

  • Roby Chavez:

    For residents in Grand Isle, Louisiana, where Ida took direct aim, the devastation has made the barrier island uninhabitable.

    Grand Isle Police Chief Scooter Resweber says he and many of his family members and colleagues lost their homes.

  • Scooter Resweber, Grand Isle Police Chief:

    In my neighborhood, I lost my home. My grandson lost his home. I have a deputy that lost his home, a sergeant that lost his home.

  • James Segrina, Louisiana Resident:

    This is the living room, and the bathroom's back here.

  • Roby Chavez:

    In the bayou town of Golden Meadow, James Segrina got emotional as he surveyed the remains of what use to be his home.

  • James Segrina:

    Dryer and washer is somewhere's up in there. In fact, the washer is right here, so — but it moved it from over here, like, eight foot.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Segrina has been in this area his entire life and is still struggling to make sense of what's happened. His boat was destroyed as well.

  • James Segrina:

    Busted the windows out, and the rain poured in, and it made it sink. There's heartbreak.

  • Roby Chavez:

    The remnants of Hurricane Ida are now causing what the National Weather Service has called significant and potentially life-threatening flooding for parts of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. Flash flood warnings have been issued from North Carolina all the way to Maine.

    While Ida has moved on from Louisiana, residents like Justin Davis have no idea when life will ever return to normal. But he says many here in the town of Raceland are committed to staying and rebuilding.

    We tagged along as he checked on neighbors and his dad, who lives just down the street.

  • Justin Davis:

    We all going to stick together and do we have got to do to get this back going as a family.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Evacuees are just eager to return. They want to get back here, survey the damage on their own homes. And they also want to come in and help their neighbors.

    But it is a dire situation. There is no food, no water, no power, and no answers of just when it is going to be safe to return — Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Roby, it is so hard to imagine the amount of devastation, but we see it in your report.

    Tell us, what is the latest on getting people the help, the support that they need?

  • Roby Chavez:

    Well, it is going to be very, very slow to come, and, right now, just the basics of food and water, what people need.

    Today, we watched the National Guard hand out meals ready to eat, and also three-quarts of water for people to last for a day. And the other big concern is just medical care. A lot of the pharmacies here are closed. Two of the major hospitals in this area are closed. There is only one emergency room to service all these people.

    And so it is going to be tough for them. In fact, today, we ran across a man who was sitting in this truck. He was gasping for air. He had stage four lung cancer. And he needed oxygen, but he didn't have the electricity to run the machines to give him that oxygen. So we went ahead and we called the emergency services and got him the help that he needed.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Oh, my goodness. Thankfully, you were there for that one man.

    And, Roby, so much discussion before the hurricane about whether the levees would hold. What is the information that you have on that? Have they been holding?

  • Roby Chavez:

    Yes, so in the area we were in today, in South Louisiana, in Lafourche Parish, there are still some levees that there are areas of concern.

    In fact, in Lafourche Parish, they spent the day packing those levees with sand, hoping to avoid another breach. If that water breaches, it will just make matters even worse.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And one other thing, Roby. You were talking about people without water, without running water. If they don't have it and they don't expect to get it soon, how are they coping?

  • Roby Chavez:

    Well, again, officials have said, don't come back because we don't have the infrastructure to help you out.

    And I talked with a few people down here who were emptying their pools to flush their toilet, using the water in buckets to wash their hands. I mean, that's the kind of situation that they're living in for now. And it could be as long as a month or even two.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Roby Chavez, thank you so much. Such important reporting.

  • Roby Chavez:

    Thank you, Judy.

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