'Our worst nightmare': Stranded La. police chief describes Ida's wrath

From a fortified building on a thin barrier island, Chief Scooter Resweber called the destruction "the worst I've seen in my lifetime"

By Halle Parker
The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate

GRAND ISLE, La. — Grand Isle was getting hammered by Hurricane Ida on Sunday at midday, with stiff wind and water pushing onto Louisiana's only inhabited barrier island before the storm's actual landfall.

Sitting in the town's government complex, Police Chief Scooter Resweber watched roofs fly off houses and a small shed blow apart an hour before the Ida's eyewall reaches land. Gusts as strong as 118 mph were recorded.

"This is the worst I've seen in my lifetime," Resweber said.

Grand Isle's 13-foot-tall "burrito" levee was blocking storm surge from the Gulf of Mexico, but water was rising on the lee side of the island from Caminada Bay. "I haven't seen flooding this bad since Katrina," Resweber said, referring to the 2005 hurricane, the most expensive in U.S. history.

The National Hurricane Center said Ida could send 12 to 16 feet of storm surge toward Grand Isle. The storm was expected to make landfall Sunday evening as a strong Category 4 hurricane between Grand Isle and Port Fourchon. Even the Coast Guard moved its boats away, to Covington.

"We're getting our worst nightmare right now," Resweber said. "We've got a gust coming through right now that's giving us hell."

Louisiana 1, the lone road in and out of Grand Isle, was already flooded, and Resweber questioned whether it would survive the storm. A washout would limit residents' ability to return to the island once Ida passes.

While 90% of the island's population of fewer than 1,500 heeded evacuation orders, about 75 residents remained, along with several emergency responders.

"Those individuals have to hunker down and stay in place. There's no way to get any rescue or services there to help them," said Jefferson Parish Councilman Ricky Templet told WDSU television.

Resweber said town officials had already fielded several calls for rescue. The Fire Department moved some residents to the government building. Ten residents were sheltering there.

Outside upper Jefferson Parish's stout levee system, Louisiana 45, the lone highway reaching the communities of Jean Lafitte, lower Lafitte, Crown Point and Barataria, was expected to close at about 11 a.m. Eight feet of storm surge was expected there after Ida passes.

"Right now, water is being blown out of Lafitte ... but later on after the storm passes, with that tidal surge, you'll have a rush of water rushing into Lafitte flooding the area," Templet said. "You'll have a four-foot tidal surge rush in within 30 minutes."

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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