WEATHER

Weeks without power or water ahead as Laura cleanup begins

Aug 29, 2020, 3:18 PM
Hurricane Laura destruction...
State Highway 27 leading to Cameron, La. is seen in Creole, La., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, as the storm surge recedes in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

CAMERON PARISH, La. (AP) — The destructive storm surge has receded, and the cleanup has begun from Hurricane Laura, but officials along this shattered stretch of southwestern Louisiana are warning returning residents they will face weeks without power or water amid the hot, stifling days of late summer.

The U.S. toll from the Category 4 hurricane rose to 16 deaths Saturday, with more than half of those killed by carbon monoxide poisoning from the unsafe operation of generators. The latest deaths included an 80-year-old woman and an 84-year-old man who died from just such a poisoning.

President Donald Trump plans to tour the damage in Louisiana and neighboring Texas on Saturday and is expected to receive briefings on relief efforts.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said Trump was traveling “to be with those who have been impacted by Hurricane Laura.”

Across southwestern Louisiana, people were cleaning up from the hurricane that roared ashore early Thursday, packing 150 mph (240 kph) winds. Many were deciding whether they wanted to return home to miserable conditions or wait until basic services are finally restored.

Along the coast in Cameron Parish, the receding storm surge left behind sediment and debris. Roads appeared still impassable. At South Cameron High School in Creole, parts of the roof of one building were ripped off, and debris was strewn everywhere. A barge appeared tilted on its side along the water.

At First United Methodist Church in Lake Charles, a work crew was battling water that continued to pour into the church building as it rained Friday.

“This roof blew off. There’s some of it over there,” said Michael Putman, owner of Putman Restoration, pointing to part of the roof resting near the side of the building. A pile of black garbage bags sat outside the church, filled with insulation and ceiling tile.

Putman lives in Shreveport, which also got damage from the storm. But he said he drove down to Lake Charles to help the minister, who was his high school pastor.

“We slept in our truck in the parking lot last night,” he said.

Simply driving was a feat in Lake Charles, a city of 80,000 residents hit head on. Power lines and trees blocked paths or created one-lane roads, leaving drivers to negotiate with oncoming traffic. Street signs were snapped off their posts or dangling. No stoplights worked, making it an exercise in trust to share the road with other motorists.

Mayor Nic Hunter cautioned that there was no timetable for restoring electricity and that water-treatment plants “took a beating,” leaving barely a trickle of water coming out of most faucets. “If you come back to Lake Charles to stay, make sure you understand the above reality and are prepared to live in it for many days, probably weeks,” Hunter wrote on Facebook.

The Louisiana Department of Health estimated that more than 220,000 people were without water. Restoration of those services could take weeks or months, and full rebuilding could take years.

Forty nursing homes were relying on generators, and assessments were underway to determine if more than 860 residents in 11 facilities that had been evacuated could return.

Several hospitals in Calcasieu Parish and one in Cameron Parish evacuated critical patients to other facilities because of water and power issues, the state health department said. Other hospitals are operating on intermittent generator power.

Nineteen babies who weathered the hurricane at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital were brought to other hospitals across around the state. The babies, some on respirators or eating via feeding tubes, were at the neonatal intensive care unit of another hospital and had to be moved Wednesday hours before the hurricane arrived out of concerns that storm surge would swamp the one-story building. Hospital officials said they then decided to move them out of Lake Charles when it became apparent that it could be weeks before water was restored.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards called Laura the most powerful hurricane to strike the state, meaning it surpassed even Katrina, which was a Category 3 storm when it hit in 2005. He said Friday that officials now believe the surge was as high as 15 feet (4.5 meters).

Saturday marks the 15th anniversary of Katrina.

Hurricane Laura also killed nearly two dozen people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic en route to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

In Lake Charles, chainsaws buzzed and heavy machinery hauled tree limbs in the front lawn of Stanley and Dominique Hazelton, who rode out the storm on a bathroom floor. A tree punctured the roof not far from where the couple was taking cover.

They regretted staying.

“There’s people without homes,” Stanley Hazelton said. “So it was dumb. We’ll never do it again. We’ll never stay through another hurricane again.”
___
Associated Press journalists Melinda Deslatte contributed to this report.

Today’s Top Stories

Weather

The Great Salt Lake has reached a historic low level of water....
Waverly Golden

The Great Salt Lake water level reaches a historic low as Utah continues to face extreme drought

Utah is in an extreme drought, causing the Great Salt Lake to reach a historic low level. Over the past 128 years, 2022 has been the driest year to date in Utah.
2 days ago
This June 5, 2013, image provided by the California Department of Water Resources shows a drip irri...
JESSICA DAMIANO Associated Press

Tips for growing a healthy garden during drought

Watering needs for plants could increase during periods of extreme heat, when the soil dries out more quickly.
2 days ago
A Navy soldier stands guard as authorities wait for the arrival of people who were evacuated from t...
Associated Press

Tropical Storm Colin brings rain to Carolinas, weakens

Tropical Storm Colin formed along the coast on Saturday. Conditions are expected to improve by Monday's Fourth of July celebrations.
4 days ago
The National Weather Service of Salt Lake City says there is a red flag warning in effect for Weste...
Lindsay Aerts

Fourth of July weekend weather conditions ripe for fires

The National Weather Service of Salt Lake City says there is a red flag warning in effect for Western Utah. It warns that many fires are human caused.
6 days ago
Salt Lake County is working to make sure its golf courses don't use as much water in the drought....
Martha Harris

Salt Lake County says it has decreased water-use on its golf courses

Salt Lake County says it has back water usage on its golf courses. The county says it has done by changing how they water.
6 days ago
High water in the Gardiner River along the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Montana, ...
Curt Gresseth

Be ready for flash flooding: Expert shares advice

An expert with the Utah Division of Emergency Management shares his expertise and crucial tips on how to be ready for flash flooding when you are in a vehicle or at home.
9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Weeks without power or water ahead as Laura cleanup begins