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Ida knocks out power to New Orleans as it’s downgraded to a tropical storm

 Some low income families in Louisiana are being forced to stay at their homes in Hurricane Ida’s wake because they can’t afford the gas or hotel room to relocate somewhere safer.    

Such was the case for Robert Owens, 27, who recalled the ‘terrifying feeling’ of watching lines of cars fleeing from Baton Rouge, where he lives with his wife, mother-in-law, a roommate and four pets.    

‘Our bank account is empty – we can´t afford to leave,’ he said.  

Out of desperation, Owens went to ACE Cash Express on Saturday and submitted documents for a payday loan. He was denied, however, and told he didn´t have enough credit history.

Hurricane Ida reached the US mainland at 11.55am on Sunday, swamping the barrier island of Grand Isle as landfall came just to the west at Port Fourchon, Louisiana. At that point, Owens realized that his family would have to ride out the storm in their duplex apartment.  

Owens said the majority of people in his low-income neighborhood are in the same predicament. They want to leave to protect families, but have no choice but to stay.

‘A lot of us here in my neighborhood have to just hunker down and wait, not knowing how bad it´s going to get,’ he said.  

Many residents struggled to evacuate to safer locations, but others lacked the funds to do so and had to stay in their homes and hope for the best. Above, a car got stuck in the storm’s floodwaters in Bay St Louis, Mississippi 

One included Robert Owens, 27, of Baton Rouge, said he feared the storm's 150mph winds would rip the roof off his duplex apartment

One included Robert Owens, 27, of Baton Rouge, said he feared the storm’s 150mph winds would rip the roof off his duplex apartment

Hurricane Ida reached the US mainland at 11.55am on Sunday, swamping the barrier island of Grand Isle as landfall came just to the west at Port Fourchon, Louisiana

 Hurricane Ida reached the US mainland at 11.55am on Sunday, swamping the barrier island of Grand Isle as landfall came just to the west at Port Fourchon, Louisiana

A young girl blocked her face from the wind and rain produced by Hurricane Ida on Sunday in New Orleans

A young girl blocked her face from the wind and rain produced by Hurricane Ida on Sunday in New Orleans

‘There people who have funds to lean on are able to get out of here, but there´s a big chunk of people that are lower-income that don´t have a savings account to fall on,’ he continued. ‘We´re left behind.’  

By Sunday night at 9pm, Owens said his family and all others in his neighborhood had lost power. The sky was lighting up green from transformers blowing up all around them, he said. 

Several trees had collapsed on neighbor’s properties, but it was too dark to see the full extent of the damage. Owens said they were trying to use a flashlight to survey the street, but were wary of jeopardizing their safety.

‘Never in my life have I encountered something this major,’ he said as giant gusts rattled his home’s windows.

Meanwhile, about 30 miles southeast, authorities announced the storm’s first death after a 60-year-old man died when a tree fell on his home in Ascension Parish on Sunday night.    

By Monday morning, more than 1 million customers in Louisiana lost power –  including thousands in Baton Rouge – according to PowerOutage.US, which tracks outages nationwide. 

Owens said there were a few times when it sounded like the roof of his duplex might come off. He said his wife was packing a bag of clothes and essentials, just in case.

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

A utility worker photographed waves as they slammed against a sea wall on Sunday

A utility worker photographed waves as they slammed against a sea wall on Sunday

A man took pictures of high waves along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain as Hurricane Ida neared on Sunday

A man took pictures of high waves along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain as Hurricane Ida neared on Sunday

Earlier in the day, Owens said he was hurriedly placing towels under leaking windows in his duplex and charging electronics. He tried to go to Dollar General and Dollar Tree to pick up food, but they were closed. His family has lights glued around the walls of the house. They planned to hide in the laundry room or the kitchen when the storm hits – places without windows.

‘There´s a general feeling of fear in not knowing what´s going to be the aftermath of this,’ he said. ‘That´s the most concerning thing. Like, what are we going to do if it gets really bad? Will we still be alive? Is a tree going fall on top of us?’

Owens said his mother-in-law is on disability. His roommates both work for Apple iOS tech support. His wife works scheduling blood donations. All of them rely on the internet to work from home, and if it goes out, they won´t be able to bring in any money.

‘We might be without work, and rent, power, water, all of those bills will still be needing to get paid,’ he said. ‘We are a little bit concerned about losing our utilities or even our house – if it’s still standing – because we´re not going to have the money for any other bills.’

He said it’s hard to feel so vulnerable, like his family is getting left behind.

‘The fact that we are not middle class or above, it just kind of keeps coming back to bite us over and over again, in so many different directions and ways – a simple pay-day advance being one of them,’ he said. ‘It´s like we´re having to pay for being poor, even though we´re trying to not be poor.

 

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