Clara Gerica, who was almost swept to her death by the force of Hurricane Katrina’s wind and water yet survived to rebuild the seafood business that she and her husband owned, died on Sept. 11th at age 64 at her New Orleans home. The cause of death has not been determined, said her daughter, Christina Gerica.
“She was tenacious. She was forgiving and very resourceful. I can think of nobody else in the fishery industry who is like her,” said Rusty Gaude, a longtime member of the board that runs the Crescent City Farmers Market.
Mrs. Gerica’s tenacity came in handy on Aug. 29, 2005, when Katrina’s gales blew apart the house, near Chef Menteur Highway in New Orleans East, that Pete Gerica had designed to withstand hurricane-force winds. The two of them, huddled inside with their daughter, Christina, and his mother, Ramona, suddenly found themselves outside in a screaming wind and rain that stung like nails, they told The Times-Picayune in 2006.
As the water rose, her husband lashed the others to trees, using doorbell wire and coaxial cable. But Clara Gerica vanished.
Swept away by the flooding, she grabbed a floating door from her ruined house and drifted across Chef Menteur Highway, which was under water. When the wind ripped the door from beneath her, she found a floating television table and rode it toward the levee south of the highway. There she covered herself with marsh grass, to ward off hypothermia and provide shelter from the wind.
Throughout her ordeal, “she kept saying different things came along,” Christina Gerica said. “No matter what happened, she was able to figure out what will make it work.”
Hours after she disappeared, Pete Gerica spotted his wife in midafternoon. He waded toward her through chest-deep water, using a plank to clear a path through the debris. He carried her out on his back.