Louisiana man’s personal levee no match for Ida’s fury

Sep 1, 2021, 12:17 PM | Updated: 12:44 pm

DES ALLEMANDS, La. (AP) — Flooded out by Hurricane Katrina, Roy Comardelle wasn’t going to let another hurricane beat him. He built a levee around his entire lot to protect his home, commercial fishing boats, cars and motorcycle.

Comardelle thought he was winning against Hurricane Ida until the Category 4 winds at its heart battered his house and sent water spilling over the grassy walls of his handmade levee, which includes a pump and a homemade flood gate for the driveway.

On Tuesday, he cleaned up the muddy mess left by more than a foot of water that inundated his house. As he worked, Comardelle couldn’t help but wonder when he might be able to get back out on the water to make a living catching crabs.

“I fought a losing battle. I thought I had it. But when the eye came, that’s when it topped the levee,” said Comardelle. “Can’t fight nature.”

Located about 35 miles (56 kilometers) southwest of New Orleans, Cormadelle’s home is in unincorporated Des Allemands, a fishing community since German immigrants first settled it in the 1720s. Residents have been trying to keep their homes dry for generations, and the fight has only gotten tougher in recent decades as Louisiana’s coastline shrank.

After Katrina hit 16 years to the day before Ida made landfall, Comardelle climbed atop a dirt-moving machine and built a berm that surrounds the property, roughly the size of a big suburban lot. A lean man with a thick accent, his torso bears tan lines from the tank top he often wears while outside working.

Comardelle planted grass on the slopes of his levee, and he rigged up a metal gate that he reinforces with sand bags to keep water from coming in over the driveway. For most storms, it keeps the house dry.

While two previous hurricanes overtopped the levee, he said, everything was working fine until Ida’s eye arrived in Lafourche Parish. Once that happened, water began pouring in over a couple of low spots. Soon, his house was filled with about 18 inches (46 centimeters) of water; the workshop where his motorcycle was parked took on 22 inches (56 centimeters).

From the air, Comardelle’s property looks like a green oasis surrounded by a sea of muck. On the ground, he grew quiet thinking about the possibility of having to use savings to sustain him and his wife until he can locate all his fishing gear and conditions are once again suitable for catching crabs.

“For Katrina and all that, it took us over two months to go ride down there to see what we even had left,” said Comardelle.

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Louisiana man’s personal levee no match for Ida’s fury