Many SWLA residents, including myself, can remember Hurricane Rita that hit our area in 2005. That was 15 years ago and over time you forget the devastation and time it took to rebuild our community. I don’t think anyone expected Hurricane Laura to become such massive Category 4 hurricane with the “eye” passing directly over Lake Charles, LA. The focus of attention in Louisiana was still the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic recovery where we were stuck in Phase 2 with a mask mandate. The buzz around town in mid August was kids beginning to go back to school and football season was building in excitement. Then Laura became to develop so quickly that when the mandatory evacuation was given by officials residents began to scramble and decide do I stay or do I go. How can I share with you the raw emotion associated with evacuating your home and the unknown. The work of prepping your home, filling up with gas, getting your medications, packing your suitcase and all your important documents is exhausting. Then you load up your car with your pets, kids and personal belongings, and pray a prayer of protection over your home as you pull out of the driveway.
Once you arrive at your evacuation destination you nervously go to sleep in your hotel fearful of what the outcome will be. Then the next morning the media coverage breaks the story of just how strong Laura’s destruction was We started to see photos posted on social media and hear our City officials telling residents not to come home until the debris could be cleared. You become anxious to learn about the damage your home. Is it wet, still standing, do I have a roof and neighbors trickling in to the subdivision share photos which either broke your heart or gave you a sigh of relief.
Returning home for your first look, driving into the City of Lake Charles was extremely emotional. Some streets and structures were just unrecognized. Businesses and Churches with demolished structures. Trees were twisted and mangled and it was evident the damage that 150mph winds can do. Hurricane Laura was the worst Louisiana storm in 167 years and it hit my City. Gone are the wooded landscapes and as you get closer to your neighborhood you begin to hear the buzz of chainsaws, the humming of generators and feel the heartbreak.
There are some who have lost everything who will have to rebuild, and start over, their homes were totally destroyed. Businesses were wrecked and 95% of our schools were damaged. So many people are displaced with no where to go. Hurricane Laura crippled our city, 8,100 utility linemen started the work to rebuild electric substations , poles, towers and electric lines. Even our local TV station was destroyed. You take for granted the power of electricity and how much we all depend on it. 2 weeks is a long time to be without power, yet our law enforcement and city officials are doing a great job of putting the pieces back together and protecting our Parish.
I’ve struggled with the words to share with others to explain the despair, sadness and emotion we all feel right now. I still cannot put it into words, instead, I will share photos and tell the story…. I will share how you persevere in 105 degree heat and humidity while picking up the pieces of your home. Behind the sweat and tears each individual is experiencing, I see a strong spirit of survival and unification in our community.
You quickly learn new skills like how to connect and start a generator, what plugs and cords do you need to connect AC and go on the hunt to find all of the above! You check social media posts to find out where the hot meals are being served and who has ice. I will continue to share the story of how I see neighbor helping neighbor, faith based relief organizations pouring in to assist those in need with food, supplies and tree removal. I will tell the world of the kindness and outpouring of love from so many individuals like my sorority sister who drove 9 hours to deliver a full truck of supplies to me and my community. There are many organizations and disaster relief teams arriving daily that help ease our sadness and bring hope.
It became evident that we are going to be faced with real estate challenges because there was no home that did not have damage. My thoughts have turned to what will we do for inventory? After the storm I immediately began to receive texts and calls of “what happens now with our real estate contract?” “How much damage was done to the property? ” “Can I find a place to rent?” I don’t have all the answers, we are all walking through this Post-Laura life one day at a time. However I am up for the challenge and have been extending contracts and writing up re-inspection addendums. I want to help as many people as I can get into homes.
In between commuting to Lake Charles, I have been working remotely from our hotel in Baton Rouge, communicating with clients and answering questions as quickly as I can, Now as the Entergy map begins to turn green with restored electricity we our ending our commuting journey to return home tomorrow. I am referring to home now as “Camp Boudreaux” where we like many others will begin to pick up the pieces rebuilding.
If you would like to contribute to helping those in need please click the link below which is a relief donation fund set up by Trinity Baptist Church.
Trinity Baptist has been serving 10,000 meals a day in coordination with faith based disaster relief organizations. They are also helping individuals with supplies and home cleanup. Please continue to Pray for Lake Charles, we have a long road of recovery ahead of us.