Hurricane Laura makes landfall in Louisiana
Hurricane Laura ravaged through the state of Louisiana in late August and it is the most powerful storm to hit the state since 1865. The storm consisted of winds of 150 miles per hour and it has since killed nineteen people. Many of the deaths were from trees being toppled over and half were from carbon monoxide poisoning. According to PowerOutages.us, 843,000 customers in Texas and Louisiana were left without power as a result of the storms. Almost 55,000 customers in Arkansas were also left without power as the storm moved north. According to the American Red Cross, more than 10,000 people in Texas and Louisiana took refuge in emergency lodging.
Coastal cities like Lake Charles especially devastated
The winds and damage were especially bad for cities like Lake Charles that are closer to the coast. Lake Charles is unique because prior to the storm landing, the city had been dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, protests over police brutality, and wildfires.
There was also a fire at a chemical plant in Lake Charles that shot plumes of smoke into the air on August 27. According to the state police, plant managers were trying to contain a chlorine leak but the details about the origin of the fire were not disclosed. KIK Custom Products owned the facility in which the fire occurred. In a statement, the company said, “All employees are confirmed to be safe at this time.” According to the EPA, the surrounding areas near the KIK Custom Products facility were under a shelter-in-place order.
The communities of Lake Charles are littered with debris, many structures were damaged, trees were snapped, steel poles and lampposts were bent, and street signs were uprooted from the ground. Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter fears the city will be left to recover on their own with the nation already so overwhelmed. Damages in Louisiana from the storm could amount to $12 billion and tens of thousands of citizens could be left without power for weeks according to the local utility provider. Thus, gas generators have been an essential lifeline for the city as a backup source of energy.
Winston Andrews, a resident of Lake Charles said, “Lake Charles will never be the same again.” Hunter said, “There’s going to be a lot of people without insurance in these areas, and that’s where we’re hoping a lot of nonprofits and FEMA will come through.” FEMA has reported that more than 50,000 claims have been filed in this region of Louisiana.
What to expect
As Hurricane Laura moved north to the southern region of Arkansas, “flooding rainfall and tropical force winds” had been spreading over some parts of Arkansas according to the National Hurricane Center. Governor Asa Hutchinson instructed residents to “pay attention to the weather.”
Fear for inland citizens who decide to ride it out
US Army Lieutenant Russel Honore, who participated in the military response to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, expressed fears over people further inland from the coast of Louisiana who may have decided not to evacuate and shelter-in-place instead. He said, “In Lake Charles, a lot of people could be hurt, and as you go further north into Beauregard Parish and up toward Fort Polk, a lot of folks live up there in mobile homes, and I only fear — knowing that Cameron was fully evacuated, a big effort in Calcasieu(Parish) and Lake Charles to get people to evacuated — I hope the same was done further north because this could be devastating … where people don’t live in sturdy homes.”