VENICE, La. — Having driven for the past five days, we've learned: Where there's a police checkpoint the damage is usually at its worst.
Jack Hingle, with the help of his Vietnam war buddies, has set up camp and a fire to keep away the bugs as they clean out, scoop by scoop, the remnants of a dozen homes in his backyard.
“The water was coming up the river,” Hingle says. “You can see the water come in like a freight train. You wouldn't wanna be here then. No way.”
Nothing along Highway 23 was spared. Not the homes that beg not to be bulldozed, or the boats in Sunrise, La.
Samuel Hughes, who is still looking for his boat, lived his entire life in one house until his mother died this year.
“I'm glad she didn't have this experience, to be honest,” he says.
Traveling to the very end of the highway, you come to a town that is, unfortunately, named “Venice” and where boats were, unfortunately, named “Lucky.”
Keith Broussard works at the port and says, “It'll take at least a year to clean up the mess they got around here.”
After most hurricanes, residents talk about moving back within days, maybe weeks. But with damage like this, victims here have more realistic expectations. Jack Hingle doesn't expect to finish building his new house until the year 2010.
“This is where I was born, and I play on dying here probably, you know?”
For him and thousands of others, the road back from this storm may, indeed, be a long one — but they're on it.