Election Section

Lili is gone but not forgotten

By Allen G. Breed
Saturday October 05, 2002


CHAUVIN, La. – The remnants of Hurricane Lili spun out of Louisiana and into the Ohio Valley on Friday, leaving behind a trail of muddy misery and tens of thousands of homes without power. 

Lili was a Category 4 hurricane packing 145-mph winds before it weakened substantially and hit land Thursday. It still left ripped-up roofing, felled trees, downed power lines, mud and debris along a coast already sodden by Tropical Storm Isidore a week earlier. 

The Insurance Information Institute in New York said claims from the storm could reach $600 million in all states affected, with most of the damage in Louisiana. State Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom said the storm dealt a heavy blow to Louisiana’s sugarcane, cotton and soybean crops. 

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Joe Allbaugh said he had no idea what Louisiana damage estimates were “other than in the millions.” Damage from Isidore’s flooding last week totaled $100 million. 

“We have assessment teams out right now,” Allbaugh said. “We will be here a long time.” 

Some 500,000 customers in Louisiana lost power during the storm, and 219,000 were still out Friday, state officials said. Utility officials said it could be several days before damage is repaired. 

Lili, blamed for a dozen deaths in the Caribbean, took no lives and caused few injuries along the Gulf Coast. But it swamped many low-lying areas in the bayou country southwest of New Orleans with a storm surge and 8 inches of rain. 

Water still covered the main road in Chauvin. Pirogues and other canoe-like boats remained the preferred means of transportation in nearby Montegut, though most of the water that poured in from a broken levee Thursday had receded. 

Kim Guy’s grandmother’s house in Chauvin was knocked off its concrete foundation — saved from floating into nearby Lake Boudreau by only a small oak tree. 

“I been living over here since I’ve been 5 years old,” the 38-year-old crabber said in the clipped Cajun French cadence of the area. “So we just deal with it. We just figure there’s nowhere else to go. Where are we going to go?” 

In Montegut, Jeremy and Dolores Koenig had a bass boat parked in front of their home, which was lifted off its foundation by the storm and dumped 50 feet away in the middle of a street. 

The couple said their insurance will leave them with about $3,000 and maybe ownership of the lot, but nowhere to live. 

Jeremy, a shrimper, said they will rebuild with a higher foundation. 

“I’m going to shrimp the rest of my life,” he said. “I just like being on the water.” 

In the Gulf of Mexico, the storm ripped one offshore drilling rig from its moorings, sending it drifting for 45 miles, and capsized another. No one was on the rigs, and the Coast Guard reported minimal oil damage. 

Lili destroyed all seven of the fishing nets Ray Trahan uses to catch mullet, a fish available for commercial harvest during a limited season in Louisiana. He hoped to replace the nets before the season opens later this month. 

“This is our livelihood,” he said, traipsing up Chauvin’s still-flooded main road as frogs and small fish skittered at his feet. 

“It’s all I know how to do. You’ve got to take the good with the bad.”