‘When the roof started to come apart and the building trembled, we all got scared’ Grand Isle police chief details Hurricane Ida’s destruction

Published 12:39 pm Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Hurricane Ida caused mass devastation on Grand Isle, a Louisiana town on a narrow barrier island that bore the full power of the Category 4 storm Sunday.

About half of the properties in the town of about 1,400 were either heavily damaged or destroyed. Some of the homes were missing roofs or walls, while others had been reduced to piles of debris.

The main roadway on Tuesday was nearly completely covered in sand that had been brought in by the tidal surge. All of the utility poles were either leaning or had crashed down.

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Grand Isle Police Chief Scooter Resweber rode out the storm with his fellow officers inside the police station Sunday. Ida made landfall just to the west with a wind gust recorded at 172 mph (277 kph) and seawater swamped the island.

“I had all the police officers move into the building for safety, and then all hell broke loose,” Resweber told a reporter for The Associated Press who reached the town via helicopter. “Roofs started to come apart. We could see buildings flying to pieces across the street from us. It’s something that you just don’t want to ever see again.

“When the roof started to come apart and the building trembled, we all got scared. We’re grown men but you do have fear in you, no matter what job you’re in, and we felt it.”

Cynthia Lee Sheng, president of Jefferson Parish, where Grand Isle is located, described the island as “uninhabitable.” She said every building was damaged to some extent, there are numerous breaks in the levee system, and a strong odor of natural gas persists, “so that is not good.”

Resweber and other officers ventured out early Monday to assess the damage — the police chief’s home was among the hundreds destroyed — as well as to check on the nearly 100 residents who had decided to stay behind. He said many residents regretted that decision, although no one was seriously hurt.

“I’ve ridden out other hurricanes — Hurricane Isaac, Katrina, Gustav, Ike — and this is no comparison whatsoever. This is the worst. … It’s just amazing that no one (here) was killed or even seriously injured.”