June 1 officially marked the start of the 2022 hurricane season, but many St. Charles Parish residents are still living through the nightmare that the 2021 hurricane season brought via Hurricane Ida. While school closures and electrical outages were resolved in the weeks and months immediately following the August storm, insurance fights and construction woes have continued to drag on for nearly a year now for many local residents.
Destrehan resident Sara Fleetwood said she, her husband and six children are hoping to be back in their home in six weeks.
“My house had to be 100 percent, completely gutted,” she said. “We have been in a camper in the driveway since Christmas time. We’re having major issues with the mortgage company.”
The Fleetwood’s mortgage was transferred to another company in March, which delayed the issuance of checks.
“We’re still at a standstill,” she said. “It’s a lot of mixed emotions … honestly there’s a lot of frustration. It’s definitely not an ideal situation … it’s a lot to handle. It’s frustrating and hard on my kids too, but there’s some excitement too. We were able to move some things around in the house and there’s the positive thinking that this isn’t going to last forever and we’re almost there.”
Nicole Cook-Ficaro said she, her husband and two children just recently moved from an apartment in Kenner to a trailer in front of their Destrehan home.
“It’s kind of a nightmare,” she said of dealing with her home insurance company. “We were just tossed around in the beginning. Once we got the ball rolling we’d get a new adjuster and then they wouldn’t call me for a month and then we’d get another one and just on and on.”
In April her home’s insurance company filed for bankruptcy, which means she and her family are now dependent on the state’s insurance – and yet another new adjuster.
“We’re hoping to get walls in the next couple of weeks,” she said. “At the one-year anniversary we would love to be back in. I was in New Orleans for Katrina, and this has me feeling the feelings of Katrina. I’m just pretty anxious.”
Ficaro said she recently received news from her insurance agent that they have less than three weeks to find a new insurance carrier.
“I’m nervous. It scares me to know what the cost of that will be,” she said. “We had to go through our savings for our rental. We were supposed to be reimbursed for the evacuation and get rental money … but nothing. We love the area, we love the people and our friends but it just makes me angry that the government and the state don’t have more in place to protect people – that the insurance companies can just drop our families and put us in this horrible situation. It just seems really unfair.”
Luling resident Kelly Besse and her family are also still not living in their home since being displaced by Hurricane Ida.
“I was 24 weeks pregnant when we evacuated,” she said. “My youngest son is now 6 months old and my oldest son just graduated from HHS.”
Besse said there is no timeline for when her family may be back in their home.
“We have most of our water mitigation done,” she said. “It’s a four bedroom, two bath home and all but the master bedroom was damaged. We have the drywall back up and the painting done but we’re waiting on floors and waiting on the kitchen and all the trim work.”
Besse said the process to find a contractor was slow.
“I contacted seven different contractors,” she said. “Only three responded, and out of those three only two gave us anything resembling proposals and obviously they were backed up.”
It wasn’t until early December that the Besse’s home underwent water mitigation.
“Then it was the insurance company that was the hold up,” she said. “It’s devastating. Every milestone that we hit is a gut punch of not being in our house. I thought we would be back in our home by the time our son graduated from high school. I thought we would be back in our home before the baby started eating solids … it’s just milestone after milestone. It’s just like a gut punch every single time.”
Besse’s children are 24, 20, 18, 4, 3 and 6 months old.
“The bigger kids understand what’s going on,” she said. “The little kids … their entire worlds have just entirely changed, and I’m scared of how that will affect them in the future. I realize that so many people are in the same situation as us … it’s taken such a toll on everybody’s mental health.”
Besse said frequent trips to her home to check on contractors and progress also got very hard, as she was constantly reminded of how much work would have to be done before she and her family could move back home.
“I went ahead and planted some seeds,” she said. “It was just like planting some hope that something would grow from all of this.”