LA -SHATTERED On sinking Isle de Jean Charles, Ida shredded the few remaining homes
ISLE DE JEAN CHARLES - Albert Naquin had been dreading the drive to see what Hurricane Ida did to his people's longtime home
''If anything's still there, it's a good thing,'' said Naquin, 74, chief of the Isle de Jean Charles band of the Biloxi- Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe, as he traveled the narrow land bridge that leads to the island, a rapidly sinking and eroding sliver of marsh in a remote corner of Terrebonne Parish.
On Wednesday, three days after the Category 4 hurricane struck Louisiana, a foot of water still covered Island Road. But by Thursday, the flooding had eased, having pushed large rocks from a battered storm wall across the roadway. Once on the island, Naquin found destruction like nothing he'd ever seen.
''It's terrible. Just terrible,'' he said. ''We get a lot of damage from storms. But this one here there's no comparison. This one is the worst.''
Home after home was reduced to piles of broken wood and shingles. Many structures left standing were shredded almost beyond recognition. Utility poles and power lines blocked the only road on the island, and rumpled strips of metal roofing and other debris cluttered the island's bayou. Skittish cats and a few chickens darted in and out of the wreckage.
Naquin estimated more than half of the 15 homes with full-time residents were either destroyed or damaged beyond repair. He thinks everyone evacuated before the storm hit Aug. 29. Only two had returned when Naquin arrived.
''Well, this house, it's still there, but the roof is gone and the doors are gone,'' Naquin said as he slowly traveled down the island. ''And this guy, he told me to deliver some stuff to his house, but there's no house. ... And that house, it was already gone. It blew away with Zeta.''
Hurricane Zeta struck Isle de Jean Charles in October. Almost every storm takes a toll here. Even high tides regularly swamp yards and the road, cutting the island off from the mainland. The island has lost about 98% of its landmass over the past 70 years due to a combination of factors, including frequent storms, erosion from oil and gas canals and subsidence - the sinking and compacting of coastal land. Sea level rise triggered by climate change is expected to drown the island in the coming years.
In 2016, Isle de Jean Charles became the first community in the United States to receive federal assistance for a mass retreat from the effects of climate change. About $48 million was allotted to buy land on higher ground, build homes and move what had been, five years ago, about 80 full-time residents.
But the state-led relocation process has gone slower than many residents expected. Some islanders who planned to move have died; others have found homes elsewhere, usually in south Louisiana, and a few have moved out of state. The exodus began decades ago. Several people who grew up on the island, including Naquin, opted to resettle in Pointe-aux-Chenes, the nearest mainland community.
Of the remaining 15 full-time island residents, 11 planned to move to New Isle, Naquin said. But several of their Isle de Jean Charles homes are now destroyed or uninhabitable, putting them in a housing limbo for months.
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