As Louisianans braced for Hurricane Ida over the weekend and media reports spoke about preparations in New Orleans, Joel Barrios began to wonder about his hometown of Lafourche Parish.
Barrios, the owner of Needville’s Bayou Boys Po-Boys, grew up in the parish where Ida first made landfall, and still has many family and friends living there, he said.
The Fort Bend County resident in the days since the storm struck the Louisiana coast made plans to bring supplies back to his loved ones, hoping to spread the word that communities beyond New Orleans needed help, too.
“In Houston, all the news is about New Orleans,” he said. “You don’t hear about those low-lying areas. I want to make sure supplies are in the hands of those that need it most.”
A growing number of Fort Bend County residents have been spurred – whether by memories of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 or a desire to serve or personal connections – to make the journey from the region to Louisiana, to help those most hurt by Ida’s wrath.
William Ferguson, an at-large councilperson in Sugar Land, for instance, has become a frequent visitor of storm cleanup sites in recent years, such as Lake Charles in 2020 after two storms damaged much of the city, he said.
It’s those with less money that end up in the worst situation after major storms, Ferguson said. Therefore, it’s incumbent on those with resources to go and help, he said.
Ferguson now plans to lead several supply drop-offs to Houma, Louisiana, echoing somewhat Barrios’ plan and aiming to help a smaller community, Ferguson said.
Not everyone can take time off work and drive to Louisiana, however.
Organizations and residents across Fort Bend County have set up impromptu drop spots for people to bring donations for Louisiana, Barrios said. For instance, those interested in donating could take items to Barrios’ restaurant.
Bayou Boys Po-Boys, 13335 State Highway 36, Needville, is open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. the other days.
Officials in Houma, about 60 miles southwest or New Orleans, say about 200,000 residents in the nearby parishes must wait weeks before electricity is restored, according to an article in Houma Today. Much of the area was under a boil water notice, cellphone service was spotty and many buildings were damaged or destroyed, according to the article.
Elsewhere, in Lafourche Parish, the damage was also extensive, according to a WDSU article.
Hurricane Ida came ashore at Port Fourchon on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with 150 mph winds, according to The Associated Press.
Barrios hasn’t heard much from his family and friends in Lafourche Parish since the storm, which makes him all the more eager to gather supplies and head over there as quickly as possible, he said.
At first, Barrios had a contract in place to cater food for electrical linesmen who are working to restore power to much of the state, Barrios said. But as he waited days for news on where to go, Barrios decided he couldn’t wait any longer, he said.
“We’ve decided to pack up and leave without a contract,” Barrios said on Tuesday. His team planned to leave on Wednesday, making multiple trips back and forth in coming days.
Fort Bend County residents have shown themselves to be more than generous for those struggling in the wake of strong storms, Barrios said.
“The folks in Fort Bend County, Needville, Rosenberg and Richmond are very kind and generous,” he said. “They proved that during (Hurricane) Laura in Lake Charles. They might not all have the means to volunteer and cook, but they have that desire to help.”
Where some might lack the time or means to volunteer, Barrios is more than happy to volunteer his own time to help those he grew up with.
Louisiana residents need items like trash bags, gasoline cans, extension cords, nails and construction material right now, Barrios said.
The needs will change as people go through the different stages of recovery, Barrios said.