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Autumn Lake

Hurricane Zeta uprooted trees at Autumn Lake RV Park.

Private park operators in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama say they are busy cleaning up fallen and missing fences, broken tree limbs and making other repairs after Zeta hit the Gulf Coast earlier this week just 1 mile per hour short of a Category 3 hurricane.

But while many parks were still without power on Thursday, every park operator interviewed by WOODALLSCM.com said their essential infrastructure remained intact.

“We lost about 500 feet of fence,” said Nate Gaarder, general manager of Pontchartrain Landing, a waterfront RV resort in New Orleans, adding that some pieces of fencing were found about a quarter-mile away from the resort.

Zeta’s ferocious winds also stripped off the siding of three, three-story rental units at the resort and blew off four awnings on privately owned motorhomes and fifth wheels, he said.

“We were at the eye of the storm,” said Gaarder, who has managed Pontchartrain Landing for 13 years. He said Zeta was the worst hurricane to hit the park since Hurricane Gustav, which made landfall in the New Orleans area as a Category 2 hurricane, according to published reports.

Gaarder said about 30 guests rode out Hurricane Zeta inside the pavilion. The worst of the storm started about 6 p.m. Wednesday and lasted until about 9:30 p.m., with the eye passing over the park around 7:30 p.m. No guests were injured, he said, although the park remained without power Thursday night.

Forecasters initially anticipated that Zeta would be a much weaker Category 1 storm, but the hurricane quickly intensified before hitting the Louisiana coast and moving northeast across Mississippi and Alabama.

Marques Thomas, of Majestic Oaks RV Resort in Biloxi, Miss., said the storm left a mess but his park’s essential infrastructure remains intact.

“It knocked down a lot of perimeter fence. We have a couple of roofs that will have to be replaced, and a lot of our beautiful oak trees have some damage. We do have some pretty big limbs that are down,” he said.

Thomas said his snowbirds rode out the storm inside the park’s office and activity room, including a few visitors from Michigan who had never experienced a hurricane before. “They said, ‘Never again,’ ” he said, adding that they assured him they didn’t want to experience a hurricane again, regardless of its anticipated intensity.

Majestic Oaks

Hurricane Zeta took off shingles from some buildings at Majestic Oaks RV Resort

“It got pretty rough here last night,” said Keith McLeod, who owns and operates Autumn Lake RV Park in Calvert, Ala. with his wife, Robin. “We were on the outside edge of the eye.”

The park has 43 RV sites and 14 park model RVs, five of which have metal roofs. The park models with metal roofs withstood the hurricane, but some shingles blew off the other park models.

The storm also ripped off a carport and blew down about half a dozen trees, although the McLeod’s fencing stayed intact. The storm also twisted a travel trailer that the McLeods use as a rental unit.

“It could have been a lot worse,” McLead said of the storm.

Lisa Thibodaux, executive director of the Louisiana Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, said park operators’ focus right now is on cleanup.

“Southwest Louisiana is coming back slowly (after Hurricanes Delta and Laura), but welcoming visitors to their campgrounds where they have availability,” she said. “It is now southeast Louisiana’s time to clean up the damages caused by Hurricane Zeta. They, too, will come back better than before. Louisianans are very strong, compassionate and resilient people. We will get through all of these storms together.”