Family grapples with loss of home and normalcy following Hurricane Ida

The Morel family

This story is part of a series Herald Guide writers will feature focused on the lives of people in St. Charles Parish still recovering from Hurricane Ida.

“The world just moved on and we’re just standing still.”

Britt Morel, her husband Taylor and their three children who still live at home are in the ranks of St. Charles Parish residents whose Hurricane Ida’s nightmares are not over nearly a year after the storm.

Morel was born and raised in Des Allemands and has lived in her Bayou Gauche home with her family for the past 14 years. And while the home never incurred significant damage from past storms, Hurricane Ida was different.

“We were going to stay home and around 3 a.m. Sunday – right before the storm made landfall – I read Bob Breck’s blog and he said how it might make landfall as a Category 5 and I said, ‘We cannot put these kids through that … we have to go now,’” Morel remembers. “All throughout that day we had hitched up the camper three times, but we kept changing our minds. We were bombarded with our emotions all day.”

Morel said their unusual time of evacuation played to their advantage – at first.

“The roads were empty and we thought, well at least we won’t get stuck in traffic,” she remembers. “But we didn’t anticipate the problem with gas. We were on fumes and just quite literally locked hands and prayed to God that the next station would have gas. We rolled up and the lights were still on and there weren’t yellow bags on the handles. I remember the feeling of grace. At that point that was the most fear I had felt.”

The family continued traveling west to Lake Charles.

“We were just calling camp sites along the way,” she said. “We didn’t really have anywhere to go. We found a campsite that took us in. Not only did they take us in, they canceled reservations with other people so evacuees could come and they fed us. It was incredible what the campground did for people.”

After spending a few days at the campsite, the family headed back home. Morel said her mom and stepdad were keeping the family updated on storm damage, but because they didn’t have access to the inside of their home there was no way of knowing how severely they were impacted from the storm until they assessed the damage themselves.

“We didn’t lose the roof,” she said. “But the inspection … that’s when everything fell apart. We have raised subfloor and everything was wet.”

With soaked floors, stained ceilings and bubbling walls, Morel said the home’s extensive damage started to reveal itself as the days went on.

“Everything to my eyes looked sort of manageable,” she said. “But then we realized the center of the house was sinking. When you walked down the hall you could just almost feel gravity pulling you.”

Morel said it has been a fight with her insurance company since day one.

“They sent an inspector out super fast, but he just did a terrible job with the inspection,” she said. “He wasn’t writing things down. Like there was a space where roof met brick and you could see the outside from the inside. Actual waterfall would pour into my house. He didn’t write that down.”

Morel said they were told they would get a small amount of money for some sheetrock and ceiling work.

“From that point on I knew they were going to make us work for it,” she said. “We hired water mitigation and that’s when reality started to set it. It was almost $50,000 to do that. We didn’t know what we were dealing with. Everything was just saturated, so we submitted that report and the insurance didn’t even acknowledge it … they didn’t pay the company and now there’s a lien on my home. At this point we’ve had to get an attorney. I have no idea when we’ll be back in the house … the attorney seems hopeful that these cases go a lot quicker once you get a lawyer involved.”

The Morels are living in their camper, which is parked on the side of their home.

“I feel like I’m a pretty resilient person and as long as I’m with my family I’m OK and I can handle almost everything,” she said. “But my kids … on the outside they seem to be doing pretty well. They’re learning a good life lesson, but at the same time their childhood is being taken away. 2020 was the lockdown and life was different and then the storm came and that was traumatizing and now destruction is normal to them. They’re dealing with it well, but we’re going on three years of their lives being different.”

Morel said her 7-year-old daughter’s Autism diagnosis has amplified the need for them to be in their home, as her daughter needs space in order to not be overstimulated.

“My kids are bouncing back … they’re doing well considering,” she said. “It’s just not the life I wanted for them.”

 

About Monique Roth 759 Articles
Roth has both her undergraduate and graduate degree in journalism, which she has utilized in the past as an instructor at Southeastern Louisiana University and a reporter at various newspapers and online publications. She grew up in LaPlace, where she currently resides with her husband and three daughters.

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