New Orleans Struggles to Get Back on Its Feet After Ida
“I don’t know what we are going to do,” one resident said. “There’s no food. And we don’t have electricity to cook.”,
New Orleanians struggle to find their footing after yet another battering by a hurricane.
- Aug. 31, 2021, 12:58 p.m. ET
NEW ORLEANS — Nearly all of the built city survived this time. But the misery has already arrived in New Orleans, after Hurricane Ida punched up the city on Sunday night.
It was especially pronounced on a stretch of South Claiborne Avenue, a busy, workaday traffic artery crowded with gas stations and convenience stores. Nearly all of them were closed on Tuesday, but the place was thrumming with nervous, negative energy — and with people suffering and scheming, or not sure where to go or what to do.
On the corner of Josephine Street, dozens of Spanish-speaking day workers crowded around a reporter when they heard the conversation turn to food. There were about 40 Hispanic men, all hoping to catch a cleanup job. But no vans or trucks came by. The sun was beating strong. The men were sweating.
Gerardo Caal, a 41-year-old man from Guatemala in a baseball cap, served as a kind of unofficial spokesman. “I don’t know what we are going to do,” he said. “There’s no food. And we don’t have electricity to cook.”
A few yards away, a line of cars stretching for blocks ended at one of the few open gas stations in the area. Malcolm Scott, 60, said he had been waiting for hours to get gas. He was not trying to get out of town, he said, but to move from New Orleans East — which was devastated by flooding during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 — to his girlfriend’s place on the third floor of an apartment building. He said he was afraid that the levees might still be breached.
As for leaving town, he chuckled, darkly, “Ain’t nowhere to go.”
“People don’t want New Orleans people no more, since Katrina,” he said. “They think we’re the worst of the worst.”
Mr. Scott said he had no idea how to get access to some of the emergency services that were popping up around the city.
“How’re you going to go to the website, when all the phones are cut off?” he said. “We don’t have no food. Hopefully FEMA will come, but it’s getting real dangerous right now.”
A block away, a New Orleans Police Department cruiser was parked outside a Family Dollar store that appeared to have been looted; its front door was smashed in. The officers would not comment, and in mid-conversation, they zoomed off toward the sound of other sirens.
Inside the store, bottles of hair-care products and food were strewn on the floor along with broken glass from the front door. Two employees were recording the damage on their phones. “I guess we’re not coming back to work for two months,” said one of them, a young woman. “We knew this was going to happen.”
A black sedan pulled up with a family inside. The worker said that the store did not have anything for sale.
“No diapers, no nothing?” a voice said from inside the car.
The young worker shrugged.
A man stepped out of the car, looked over his shoulders, and stepped through the hole in the Dollar Store door.