KENNER, La. - After Hurricane Ida, Bridget McDowell tarped the damaged roof of her raised brick house in the University City neighborhood of Kenner, emptied her fridge and dried her wet clothes.
But as Tropical Storm Nicholas lashed south Louisiana with rain on Tuesday, water dripped into the house again. She raced home to supervise her brother-in-law as he nailed down tarps. There wasn’t enough time to wait for the rain to pass.
“Everything was cleaned and washed, and then this happens,” said McDowell. “What’s the next storm?”
Much of south Louisiana wondered the same as Nicholas drenched a state devastated by Hurricane Ida. While nowhere near the strength of Ida, Tropical Storm Nicholas complicated south Louisiana’s fragile recovery on Tuesday by delaying repair work, grounding linemen and dumping water on leaky roofs.
Nicholas made landfall as a hurricane in Texas early Tuesday before weakening. It is expected to produce additional rainfall amounts of 5 to 10 inches across portions of southern and central Louisiana, and along the Mississippi and Alabama coast and western Florida panhandle through early Friday. Storm totals of 20 inches are also possible from southern Louisiana to the far western Florida panhandle, said Stacy Stewart, a senior hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center.
By Wednesday morning, Nicholas is forecast to weaken further to a tropical depression, with winds of only 30 mph, and continue to weaken with sustained winds of only 25 mph by mid-day Thursday, when it will still be halfway between Lake Charles and Lafayette. It will then turn north and dissipate early Friday before reaching Alexandria.
For many people in south Louisiana, the storm was another headache on top of two weeks of power and gas outages, heat advisories and rotting garbage. On Aug. 29-30, Ida bowled over the state, damaging up to 80,000 roofs and knocking the power out for 902,000 Entergy customers.
Now Nicholas could complicate restoring power to the 84,000 customers who remain without electricity.
“We’re currently working to maintain any communicated restoration times, but the weather could play a part in that,” said Brandon Scardigli, a spokesman for the utility.
Some linemen returned to their homes in Texas to help with repair work there, but Scardigli said the utility “minimized” the impact of their loss by holding onto other out-of-state linemen longer than originally planned.
And so far, Nicholas itself has caused relatively little damage to the grid. About 12,000 Entergy customers in Louisiana lost power on Tuesday, but the number of outages dropped to 5,000 over the course of the day.
With the storm expected to continue drenching the state with rain, many homeowners were far more concerned about their roofs.
The government’s program for emergency tarps, Operation Blue Roof, is off to a slow start. As of Saturday, only a little over 100 of the heavy-duty roof covers were in place, out of requests from 50,000 homes.
Instead, many residents have sought help from roofers -- to varying degrees of success -- or have done the job themselves. In the first days after Ida, tarps were hard to find, although they have since become more available. One Kenner man said he simply unwrapped the same blue tarp he used after Hurricane Katrina.
In the Covington Country Club neighborhood in St. Tammany, Sarah Cottrell said she felt desperate in the days after a water oak sliced off the front of her home during Ida.
After dodging shady, out-of-state contractors, she found a reputable roofer who installed the tarp on Labor Day.
“Until we got the tarp on, we were so stressed with the whole thing. We’re one of the lucky ones," she said.
But not everyone’s luck held during the first major day of rain from Nicholas. As her brother-in-law clambered over her roof, McDowell rattled off the estimates she's received for a permanent repair, ranging from $5,400 to $19,000. She was frustrated that she has yet to hear back from Operation Blue Roof.
A few blocks down West Louisiana State Drive, homeowner Demetris Robinson felt the same way. She caught the rainwater dripping into her kitchen with a big silver gumbo pot as family friend Robert Tuckson affixed a tarp for the second time since Hurricane Ida. The first one didn’t hold, so Tuckson, 61, did the latest job in the rain. Inside, Robinson's flip-flops slapped against the water collecting on her tile floors.
Robinson, a 55-year-old bus driver for St. Charles Parish schools, said she was upset with the government and her insurance company alike. She is staying at a friend’s house because she worries the mold on her walls will make her sick. But her 36-year-old son and 17-year-old grandson are sleeping in the house because no hotel will allow their dog.
“When it rained Sunday, the water didn’t come in here. But today, Nicholas must be blowing it in from Texas,” she said. “I’ve gotta get it fixed up. Can’t nobody live like this here.”