Difficult Hurricane Laura Recovery Reflected in Staggering Numbers; Lives Turned ‘Completely Upside Down,’ Governor Says

Published in 31 August, 2020

  • As many as 17,000 evacuees are seeking shelter in Louisiana and Texas hotels.

  • At least 14 deaths in Louisiana have been attributed to Hurricane Laura.

  • Four deaths in Texas were connected to the storm.

  • With over 350,000 still without power, officials said outages could last for weeks.

  • Schools in Calcasieu and in Cameron parishes will remain closed until further notice.

The numbers that reflect the impact of Hurricane Laura can’t tell the full story. Nonetheless, they are staggering. “We have a long road ahead of us. This recovery is going to take a while and it’s going to take a lot of effort …,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said during a briefing Sunday afternoon. “A very significant percentage of our state’s population’s lives are completely upside down.” At least 14 deaths in Louisiana have been blamed on the hurricane, eight of which were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning from generators, Edwards said. Laura was responsible for four deaths in Texas and 23 in the Caribbean.

Nearly 308,000 Louisiana homes and businesses remained without power on Monday morning, according to poweroutage.us. Texas had more than 57,700 customers without electricity.

About 500 electricity transmission towers are down in the Lake Charles area alone, Edwards said.

More than 17,000 linemen from at least 29 states are making repairs, the governor said.

Customers have been warned it could be four or five weeks — if not longer — before their electricity is restored.

More than 180,000 people also have little or no running water. At least 183 water systems remain shut down after being slammed by Laura.

Close to 9,000 people are sheltering in hotels throughout the state. As many as 8,000 are in Texas hotels.

In Calcasieu and in Cameron parishes, schools will remain closed until further notice, officials announced. Calcasieu School Board officials said 97% of their 70 sites and facilities have substantial damage. Some 6,240 members of the Louisiana National Guard helping with hurricane recovery have handed out 893,000 bottles of water, 473,000 meals, more than 36,000 bags of ice and about 14,000 tarps. What these numbers fail to convey is the physical and emotional toll Hurricane Laura is taking on real people. People like James Townley of Lake Charles. The 56-year-old man sought relief from the stifling heat on Sunday with a fan powered by a neighbor’s generator. He lay on a sofa in what was left of his home after Laura ripped the front wall off. His open shirt showed heart surgery scars. Townley told the Associated Press he has run out of medicine for his heart and kidneys. He said he hasn’t heard back from FEMA. “I’m just going to sit here and do what I can do,” he said. “Maybe I’ll make it, maybe I won’t.”

Death Toll Climbs to 18
The Louisiana Department of Health announced two more deaths Sunday as a result of Hurricane Laura, bringing the total in the state to 14. Of the 14 deaths, eight were due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

These are the confirmed victims in Louisiana:

-14-year-old girl, Vernon Parish, fallen tree

-51-year-old man, Jackson Parish, fallen tree

-68-year-old man, Acadia Parish, fallen tree

-64-year-old woman, Allen Parish, fallen tree

-Man, Calcasieu Parish, drowning

-24-year-old man, Calcasieu Parish, carbon monoxide poisoning from generator

-56-year-old woman, Calcasieu Parish, carbon monoxide poisoning from generator

-61-year-old man, Calcasieu Parish, carbon monoxide poisoning from generator

-81-year-old woman, Calcasieu Parish, carbon monoxide poisoning from generator

-72-year-old man, Calcasieu Parish, carbon monoxide poisoning from generator

-84-year-old man, Allen Parish, carbon monoxide poisoning from generator

-80-year-old woman, Allen Parish, carbon monoxide poisoning from generator

-57-year-old man, Calcasieu Parish, head injury after falling from roof

-One resident, Calcasieu Parish, carbon monoxide poisoning

In Texas, three men died in Port Arthur because of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator they had brought indoors while sheltering from Laura, Jefferson County Precinct 7 Justice of the Peace Brad Burnett told KBMT-TV.

A 54-year-old man was killed Thursday when a tree fell on his mobile home, Sabine County Emergency Management Coordinator Kerwin Lloyd said, according to the AP.

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