Former LC resident who survived Laura now managing aftermath of Ida

Published 8:04 pm Monday, August 30, 2021

Kerry Andersen of Lake Charles rode out Hurricane Ida Sunday in the fourth-floor loft of her New Orleans rental property — a century-old brick warehouse in the Central Business District. She had only spent one night there before the Category 4 storm made landfall.

Andersen decided to move to New Orleans four weeks ago — after the one-year lease on her temporary rental home in Baton Rouge ended and the owner decided to sell. Meanwhile, her Lake Charles home on Iris Street remains stripped down to the studs, one year after the Category 4 Hurricane Laura devastated Southwest Louisiana.

Andersen is a former news director/anchor at KVHP-TV and corporate director of public relations for Pinnacle Entertainment, which owned L’Auberge Casino.

Forced to relocate to New Orleans the day before Ida, Andersen said her belongings were still boxed up when the storm made landfall. She hunkered down in her bedroom with her two dogs. She said a neighbor let her borrow a lantern once Ida knocked out power throughout the city. She only got an hour’s worth of sleep.

“First the bricks were dripping, but then the whole ceiling inside the loft started leaking,” Andersen told the American Press during a phone interview Monday. “The building started to creak and screech, but my friends told me that’s good. You want to hear it breathing, but the sound was very unsettling.”

New Orleans was seen as a fresh start for Andersen, who spent the last year battling with State Farm to get full compensation for the $317,000 in estimated damage that Hurricane Laura caused to her Lake Charles home, along with additional living expenses. Having only received roughly $96,000 so far, she eventually decided to sell the home as is.

“I don’t have a choice,” she said. “I’m exhausted. I can’t make up that difference, and I can’t wait another year.”

Andersen said she hired an attorney and is suing State Farm to get the company to pay out on her homeowners policy.

“I didn’t want to do it,” she said. “After 11 adjusters, at some point, you have to say they are not going to act in good faith,” she said.

Andersen said she also filed a formal complaint against a contractor for the initial $10,000 draw in insurance money that was not returned to her once she told them she was going to sell her home.

Andersen said State Farm was paying the rent on the home in Baton Rouge. After Laura’s landfall, she said insurance officials asked why she would sign a one-year lease, saying she would never need it.

Before moving to New Orleans, Andersen said she spent a week in the garage of her Baton Rouge rental home, unboxing and taking photos of all of her items damaged during Hurricane Laura.

“The boxes were absolutely disgusting because everything in them had been marinating in stormwater,” she said.

The Monday after Ida, Andersen walked to a nearby hotel that was running on limited generator power and used its WiFi to contact family and friends. She lost communication after midnight, once Ida’s eyewall had passed and the second wave came in. Officials said it may take three weeks for power to be restored in New Orleans.

Andersen, who testified in front of the House Insurance Committee in May, said she’s one of thousands of Southwest Louisiana residents dealing with the same problems, post-Laura. She said those challenges, and the ones that await her in Ida’s aftermath, aren’t going to deter her from starting over in the Crescent City.

“There’s no question in my mind,” she said. “I refuse to let this keep me from living this life I’m trying to build. You’ve got to find your happiness.”