Working-class Louisians abandoned by the hurricane – People’s World


A young girl and her mother protect their faces from the wind and rain caused by Hurricane Ida on Sunday August 29th in New Orleans, La. | Eric Gay / AP

Robert Owens felt defeated and helpless on Sunday as he waited in Louisiana’s capital for one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the US to hit land

The 27-year-old had watched anxiously for days long lines of cars being evacuated from Baton Rouge, en route to safer locations out of state as Hurricane Ida approached. He had hoped he and his wife, mother-in-law, roommate, and four pets would be among them. But leaving would have required money for gasoline and a hotel room – something they didn’t have.

An abandoned vehicle is half submerged in a ditch beside a nearly flooded highway when the outer bands of Hurricane Ida arrive on August 29. | Steve Helber / AP

Desperate, Owens went to ACE Cash Express on Saturday and filed documents for a payday loan. He was denied, told he did not have enough credit history.

On Sunday it was clear that it would be them ride the storm at home in his family’s duplex apartment.

“Our bank account is empty – we can’t afford to go,” he said.

Owens said the majority of the people in his low-income neighborhood are in the same predicament. They wanted to go to protect their families, but they had no choice but to stay.

“A lot of us here in my neighborhood just have to duck and wait without knowing how bad it is going to be. It’s a terrifying feeling, ”he said.

“There people who have money to rely on can get out of here, but there are a large number of lower-income people who don’t have a savings account to rely on,” he continued. “We stay back.”

By 9 p.m. on Sunday evening, Owens said his family and everyone else in his neighborhood had lost power. The sky lit up green from transformers exploding all around them, he said.

Several trees had collapsed on neighboring properties, but it was too dark to see the full extent of the damage. Owens said they tried to survey the street with a flashlight but were careful not to compromise their safety.

“I’ve never seen anything so big in my life,” he said when huge gusts rattled the windows of his house.

A police patrol car approaches as a woman walks down Bourbon Street in New Orleans’ French Quarter after Hurricane Ida cut power to the city on Aug. 30. | Eric Gay / AP

More than a million Louisiana customers lost power overnight from Sunday to Monday, according to PowerOutage.US, which is tracking outages nationwide.

Owens said it sounded a couple of times like the roof of his semi-detached house was breaking off. He said his wife packed a bag of clothes and essentials, just in case.

“We’ll find shelter in the car if we lose the house,” he said. The family shares his wife’s Toyota Avalon, a vehicle “not nearly big enough” to accommodate four people, three dogs and a cat.

Earlier in the day, Owens said he was in a hurry to put towels under leaky windows in his duplex and charging electronics. He tried going to Dollar General and Dollar Tree for food, but they were closed. His family taped lights around the walls of the house. They planned to hide in the laundry room or kitchen during a storm – in places with no windows.

“There is a general feeling of fear of not knowing what the consequences of this will be,” he said. “That is the most worrying thing. What do we do when it gets really bad? Will we still live Will a tree fall on us? “

Owens said his mother-in-law was disabled. His roommates both work for Apple iOS technical support. His wife is working on blood donation planning. Everyone depends on the internet to work from home and when it fails they cannot make any money.

“We could be out of work and rent, electricity, water, all these bills still have to be paid,” he said. “We’re a little worried that we might lose our utilities or even our house – if it still stands – because we won’t have the money for other bills.”

He said it was hard to feel as vulnerable as if your family were being left behind.

“The fact that we are not middle class or above keeps coming back to bite us again and again, in so many different directions and ways – a simple payday advance is one of them,” he said. “It’s like paying to be poor even though we’re trying not to be poor.”


Leah Willingham

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