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Louisiana's Lafourche Parish Was One Of The Hardest Hit Areas By Hurricane Ida

NOEL KING, HOST:

It will take weeks and maybe even longer until we know how extensive the damage is from Hurricane Ida. There are places right now in Louisiana that cannot be reached because roads have been washed away or they are blocked by debris. Louisiana's Lafourche Parish, 60 miles south of New Orleans, right on the Gulf of Mexico, was hit especially hard.

With us now is the parish sheriff's office captain, Brennan Matherne. Good morning to you, sir.

BRENNAN MATHERNE: Good morning. Thanks for having us.

KING: We're glad to have you. Can you tell me what you're seeing there in the parish?

MATHERNE: Well, it's just complete devastation from wind damage with Hurricane Ida from the southern end. And it gets - should I say, from the northern end all the way to the southern end, and it gets worse the farther south you go. As you mentioned, we were one of the hardest hit areas. We actually were the landfall site for Hurricane Ida. We understand that officially they have named two landfalls. Both of them were in Lafourche Parish, but they're - it's kind of all the same area.

Port Fourchon was the initial landfall, which is the oil and gas service industry port that is at the southern end of our parish. I know y'all spoken to executive director Chett Chiasson in the last 24 hours. And so you understand the importance of Port Fourchon to the rest - not only to us, but to the rest of the country. And then the second landfall was in Golden Meadow, just north of that. And we're seeing complete devastation from wind damage in that area - you know, entire streets of houses just completely leveled. You know, when they say uninhabitable, there's nothing left of these structures at all. It doesn't look like a house was there at all.

The damage doesn't get as significant the farther north you go. But it takes really to get all the way to the city of Thibodaux in the northern end of the parish before you really start seeing less damage. But you still have entire walls of buildings and businesses that are gone on in the city of Thibodaux as well. So it's really just devastating. I would say there's damage to 100% of structures in Lafourche Parish.

KING: One-hundred percent?

MATHERNE: No question.

KING: Wow.

MATHERNE: Every building has some level of damage. Now, some aren't as bad as others. Some are - it's really a matter of what percentage of structures aren't there anymore. And we're going to continue those assessments and assisting Lafourche Parish government in making those assessments as time goes on. We're still - you know, the assessments, as far as damage, are important. And we understand that everybody wants to have those numbers. But for us here, it's just about getting back to some semblance of normalcy. Right now, you know, parishwide, obviously no power - that's a given.

KING: OK.

MATHERNE: But we don't have running water either.

KING: No power and no water?

MATHERNE: And no cell service. Yesterday evening, we started to see AT&T service start to come back up. But we've been very cautious - even though we are allowing residents to come back in the parish, we've been very cautious and vocal about what they're coming back to. They need to be 100% self-sustaining. They need to bring everything with them that they could possibly need.

They will not be able to turn on a faucet or flush the toilet in most of the parish - obviously, no power and probably very little to any communication at - once you get here. The other problem we're seeing now as more and more people return is fuel. We're seeing lines hours long at every gas station that is open in Lafourche Parish now. So it's just every time that we - every time that you solve one problem, another problem emerges.

KING: I was going to ask you whether or not the sheriff's office is helping people rebuild. But it sounds like the more immediate problem is helping people literally survive.

MATHERNE: Absolutely. Of course, our deputies and the community we serve - you know, our motto here at the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office is we do whatever it takes to properly serve the public. And that can include literally going - help people to rebuild. We have been assisting some elderly with getting their property secure, tarps on roofs where we can and things like that. You know, people have been just walking up from their home that's been completely devastated, looking for food and water. And we've been able to hand that off to deputies so - you know, to give that to them. So ultimately, you know, we're doing any (inaudible) can.

KING: Brennan Matherne, thank you so much for your time.

MATHERNE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.