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In Grand Isle, Devastated by Ida, Athletes Seek Normalcy by Running

Logan Camardelle, 18, a senior who finished 10th in the state meet as a sophomore in 2019, is living with his sisters in Austin, Texas, and San Antonio while taking classes virtually at Grand Isle School. He runs outside with his brother-in-law and sometimes jumps on a treadmill for a few miles. Fluid buildup in his knees forced him to stop training for a brief period, but Camardelle said he will return for the upcoming championship.

“When I got 10th, I felt so good and I could imagine getting a better place, top five,” he said.

He is a cousin of Grand Isle’s longtime mayor, David Camardelle, 65, who frequently says that he will remain in Grand Isle as long as there is enough sand to plant an American flag. Logan yearns to return home, for the beauty and tranquillity of the island, for the discipline of cross-country running and basketball, but he knows that storms will keep coming. A friend of his father’s lived in a $210,000 home on the beach for only two months before it was wrecked by the hurricane.

“I don’t know how many people’s houses can withstand something like that again,” Logan Camardelle said.

Mayor Camardelle speaks of Grand Isle being “the first line of defense” for New Orleans. He has urgently called for more large rocks to be placed just offshore in the Gulf of Mexico to serve as breakwaters and to preserve Grand Isle’s beach. And he has called for clay, not merely sand, to fill the fabric tubes that serve as the spine of the island’s 13-foot dune and levee system. The structure, known locally as the burrito levee, ruptured in places during the hurricane, leaving five feet of sand along sections of Highway 1, the only road in and out of town.

At a recent meeting of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, its chairman, Chip Kline, said the federal government needed more creative ideas to shelter Grand Isle. During Hurricane Ida, the sand levee melted in spots like sugar in coffee. Many scientists have expressed support for programs to assist people in relocating from Louisiana’s vulnerable coast, where federal resources for recovery and rebuilding could drain away as storm damage becomes more widespread.

“It’s not a question of if Grand Isle at some point becomes completely unlivable; it’s a question of when,” said Torbjorn Tornqvist, a coastal geoscientist at Tulane University. “That applies to a lot of places in Louisiana. Ultimately, that applies to New Orleans as well.”

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