LAFITTE, La. - Katie Areas has watched her restaurant come a long way since Hurricane Isaac.
“We had flooding inside the downstairs that was worse than any other hurricane we've ever had,” she said. “The upstairs dining area was completely destroyed. Wind and rain damage got into the room and the ceiling collapsed.”
The storm shuttered Boutte's Bayou Restaurant in Lower Lafitte for six months. The upstairs dining room is still damaged.
And Areas is still working to rebuild her nearby home.
“After you've done it a few times, it gets to where, ‘God I'm tired, I'm exhausted,’” said Areas. “We need help.”
Lower Jefferson Parish lies outside the federal levee protection system. And with every threat in the Gulf of Mexico, those with roots here fear everything they have could be washed away.
“I get emotional because it's so traumatizing to think that we would have to go through it again. It's like your life is turned upside down,” said Areas.
The area dodged a bullet as the latest disturbance in the Gulf heads for Northern Mexico.
But as we approach the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Isaac, those in Lafitte are still a long way from having adequate flood protection.
“August and September is a nightmare. Everybody's sitting on pins and needles,” said Tim Kerner, Mayor of Lafitte.
Kerner has been fighting for flood protection for years. Finally, $17 million in state funds will help build some levees by the end of next year.
Kerner said construction will begin on a seven foot levee in the next few months, along a roughly three mile stretch of Bayou Barataria in the Town of Jean Lafitte, near an area that's filled with schools churches and businesses.
Kerner said they are still waiting on a few more land acquisitions before construction can begin.
“If I've done anything in over 20 years I've been here, if I provide them levee protection, I'll feel good about it,” said Kerner. “If we get the tidal protection we are starting to implement and trying to implement in one area, from Hurricane Juan [in 1985] to now we wouldn't have had a drop of water.”
Kerner hopes to eventually expand levees to other parts of Lower Jefferson Parish using anticipated federal dollars from the Restore Act and other programs.
For now, storm protection means pumping down canals and storing sand bags just in case.
Kerner said he is working with Jefferson Parish to help residents elevate their homes.
Those like Areas say they have no intention of leaving Lafitte. Many families have lived here for generations, playing a major role in the state’s fishing industry.
“This is our livelihood. This is our heritage,” said Areas. “It's a wonderful place to live. It's we have a really good close knit community. Everyone helps each other.”
And the entire community is bracing for the rest of hurricane season.