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Louisiana Family Must Decide Whether To Stay After Ida Or Move To A Safer Place

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana more than two weeks ago, but the recovery still hasn't begun for thousands of ravaged households. They've been getting by without electricity and sometimes even without water. NPR's Frank Morris reports.

FRANK MORRIS, BYLINE: Ida shredded Galliano, La. The trailer park here on the edge of town is more debris field than neighborhood. But there is a little oasis at 132 Orange Street.

(SOUNDBITE OF PARAKEETS CHIRPING)

MORRIS: Half a dozen parakeets perched in a cage and Leydi Lopez is passing the time of day with her family and a neighbor. Unlike most of the places here, her trailer is holding together. But there is a lot of damage.

LEYDI LOPEZ: The roof and the sheetrock inside, it has water damage. And we've got a broken window. The siding is gone, and our door don't close (laughter).

MORRIS: Because of the twisting and pounding this old trailer took during the storm. The neighborhood's a danger zone bristling with jagged glass, wood and steel, so the kids are bottled up inside all day. And it's not just her kids. Ida obliterated the trailer next door, so those children have moved in here, too, along with their parents and an ailing grandmother - 10 people in all using one small bathroom.

Lopez has a generator but runs it sparingly to save gas. Electricity's been off more than two weeks and may take another month to restore. The kids are out of school indefinitely. Thousands of families around here face pretty much the same grind. And Leydi's husband, Ivan Velazquez, says you can feel the tension building.

IVAN VELAZQUEZ: Everything is over and over and over. It's like you got people stressing 'cause they have to deal with no water, with no power, with no gas.

MORRIS: He's working construction, tearing into wealthier people's rebuilding projects, so he's out negotiating the relentless traffic jams here caused by work on the power lines, malfunctioning lights and wrecks.

VELAZQUEZ: Almost every day I see accidents, bad accident. Three days ago on Highway 90, I see a big accident and one guy is dead on the moment.

MORRIS: Lopez and Velasquez are grateful at least to have their own little refuge here. A block up this desolate lane, Clair McGowan's place has fallen off its 6-foot concrete pilings. The trailer slumps sideways, dark, damp, precarious as she steps in.

CLAIR MCGOWAN: Oh, my Lord. Oh.

MORRIS: McGowan and her husband are living with his sister. Sister doesn't have power either, but her place is livable.

MCGOWAN: I say it's hard, you know, especially when you can't come to your home - so used to being home.

MORRIS: No power, groceries are hard to come by. And even water has been a problem.

MCGOWAN: We was out of running water for two or three days, so we had to go get water from out of the bayou. My husband and I went with a ice chest in order for the kids to use the bathroom (laughter). We had to do what we had to do.

MORRIS: You hear that all the time here. People tell you they're just carrying on as best they can. Back up the street, Leydi Lopez is gearing up for a special dinner.

LOPEZ: (Laughter) I'm making some typical food from Mexico. It's called mole because we have been eating eggs the whole week (laughter), so we decided to do something else today.

MORRIS: Soon, the family will have to decide whether to fix up this trailer, like they did just last year after Hurricane Laura, and then hope for a few years without a major disaster, that or pack up and find a safer place to call home.

Frank Morris, NPR News, Galliano, La. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.