How a Louisiana family and community survived Hurricane Ida’s second landfall in Galliano
Susan Guidroz huddled in her bathroom with 15 of her family members after Hurricane Ida tore the roof off her two-story home in Galliano, where the storm made a rare second landfall Sunday afternoon.
"It's shocking really," Guidroz said. "I never thought this house would end up like this.
"That's why we stayed because it was a strong, well-built house," she added.
The family left its initial shelter under the house’s staircase when winds ripped the roof off. Everyone rushed to the all-wood home’s bathroom, where they crowded for four hours until the storm passed.
Hurricane Ida made landfall in Port Fourchon packing 150-mph winds and two hours later in Galliano still as a powerful Category 4 storm. The hurricane left more than a million people without power in Louisiana — including all 200,000 residents of Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes — and destroyed thousands of homes.
At least 12 people have died in the wake of Hurricane Ida, which Gov. John Bel Edwards said was likely one of the worst storms to hit the state since 1850.
Guidroz, who’s lived in Galliano her whole life and is now sleeping in a shrimp boat, said this was the strongest storm she’s ever experienced.
"I've never seen anything like this,” she said.
On Thursday, Galliano still lacked power and running water. Dozens of cars lined the side of the road waiting to pull up to the few functional gas pumps in town.
Hurricane Ida’s impact was at least the worst for Galliano since Hurricane Gustav in 2008, said Dannie Burregi. The 55-year-old owner of Galliano Food Store said his Main Street grocery had to be rebuilt after Gustav and, after losing its roof during Hurricane Ida on Sunday, will have to be rebuilt again.
“For Hurricane Gustav, we had the same exact thing happen. We had to redo everything again, so it's been 12 good years, but we're starting again," he said.
"We are getting the ball rolling, and we're gonna start cleaning out and start rebuilding,” he said while boarding up the store Thursday.
Burregi’s store is the only grocery in central Galliano, and his family has run the shop since they started it 45 years ago.
As Galliano residents crowded at food distribution points Thursday, Burregi said he has no option but to rebuild to give his employees a place to work and to maintain his family's commitment to the community.
“It's not just us we're responsible for, (it's) them, we feel, and all of our community. We feel responsible for them," Burregi said.
"I think if we left, I don't know what they would do. I mean they can go to other grocery stores, but people are used to what they're used to," he added. "I mean, we're a small community store. We're the ones that when people need help, they come to."
As dispatchers at the fire station in Galliano sent an air med unit to respond to a carbon monoxide poisoning Thursday, members of Lafourche Parish Fire District 3 said the value of community in a town of about 7,000 people is paramount in a storm as bad as Ida.
"You can stop on any street and see a neighbor helping a neighbor," spokesperson Jada Pitre said. "That's what this whole community is about."
For now, reliance on each other is all the residents of Galliano and other small communities across southeast Louisiana have until federal aid can help them get steady supplies of gas, food and water.
Guidroz’s son Matt Richeaux, who weathered the storm on a barge in the Mississippi River, said the needs of rural communities that were directly in the path of Hurricane Ida have been neglected in the storm’s immediate aftermath as national attention has been focused primarily on New Orleans.
“A lot of people are upset because this is ground zero but America is hearing nothing but about New Orleans. What are they hearing about down here?" he said. "My mom just lost everything, and she's not the only one who lost everything."
But Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson said he has had success working with federal relief agencies and hopes his parish's rural communities will soon get the help they need to start their recovery from the worst storm they’ve seen in years.
“All the horror stories you hear about FEMA have proven to be not true, at least for us right now," Chaisson said. "They're embedded with us. They are on the ground. They have given us everything we need."