Gustav evacuees still waiting for OK to return back home

Published 10:54 pm Friday, September 5, 2008

Armed with their important papers, a case of Vienna sausages and prayer, 18 members of the Adams, Boudreaux, Clay and Majors families fled Lafourche Parish, La., hoping to make it out of the direct path of Hurricane Gustav.

As roadways from the Mississippi line to Louisiana remain closed, the group, which consists of an 84-year-old grandmother, three diabetics, three toddlers and nine adults, will have to stay in Alabama a while longer.

Charlotte Boudreaux was elected as spokesman for the group. She said they left their home 12 miles from Houma, La., at 11 a.m. Saturday, four hours before New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin announced mandatory evacuation for the city’s residents.

“We thought we were getting ahead of the group until we got on the interstate,” Boudreaux said. “It was bumper to bumper traffic. We left on five vehicles and made it here on four. One car broke down somewhere near the Mississippi line. We don’t know what happened to it — I hope it’s still sitting by the road and hasn’t been towed.”

The group was one of more than 80 families that made the local Red Cross chapter its home as Gustav bore down on the Louisiana coast.

“The whole experience has been just mind wracking,” she said. “If you’re not strengthened in the Lord, it will make you lose your mind.”

No one in the family has received word on what the situation back home looks like, she said.

“We don’t know. All of us are here and there’s no way to get word back from anyone else there because we all had to leave,” Boudreaux said. “We know that we got a direct hit. We’ve got hope, though. Always looking on the positive side.

“When the mayor said we had to leave, we grabbed up the important papers, a few changes of clothes and said a prayer before we hit the road,” she said.

After about 16 ½ hours, the group made their way to Enterprise even though their ultimate goal was Dozier, Boudreaux said.

“At first it was just going to be me and my husband leaving,” she said. “We have friends in Dozier. Like a mini-vacation, but that was before we knew the hurricane was going to come straight in. We made it to Enterprise since there were so many of us we had to find a hotel room.

“But that’s expensive,” she said. “Lenora, the lady at the Holiday Inn Express, went out of her way to help us. She found us the shelter here in Andalusia, and here we are.”

The families will remain a while longer, since power outages have affected their banking institutes in Louisiana.

“It’s frustrating,” said Dewayne Adams. “We have money in the bank, but can’t get to it because there’s no power. We’re trying to say what cash we have so we have gas money to get back home on. We have to eat, buy diapers and formula — all that stuff. Everyone here has been great, lending a helping hand. It’s just that we’re tired and worried and ready to go home.”

Boudreaux said she understands the level of frustration Katrina evacuees must have felt three years ago.

“We were lucky. We didn’t have but a little bit of damage from Katrina,” she said. “But it’s about not knowing — not knowing what’s going on at home; not knowing what’s going to happen; not knowing how or when we’ll get home.

“Then, we were the ones saying, ‘oh, those poor people,’ and wondering what we could do to help,” she said. “Now I understand a little bit of what they went through.”

Now, it’s a waiting game for them and the more than 1 million residents evacuated during the storm.

“That’s what we’re doing…waiting, anticipating good things and enduring,” Boudreaux said. “Right now, I can tell — you know how Dorothy said, ‘There’s no place like home?’ Well she was right. We’re so ready to go home, but there’s no way possible.”

To help this family and other evacuees, call the Covington County chapter of the American Red Cross at 428-2680.