Rebuilding after a disaster is never easy, but recovering from Hurricane Laura in southwestern Louisiana will require a herculean effort.
Electricity could be out for weeks, water can’t flow from damaged systems and the heat index could reach 110 degrees.
Six parishes have been declared federal disaster areas: Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis and Vernon.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said power could be restored to most damaged locations in central and northern Louisiana in the next few days.
“But the damage to the grid infrastructure in Southwest Louisiana, from Cameron Parish to Vernon or so, is very extensive, especially in Calcasieu,” he said.
Getting the electricity back in Calcasieu Parish, home to Lake Charles, could take three weeks, Edwards said during a briefing Monday afternoon.
More than 102,000 homes and businesses in Calcasieu had no power on Tuesday morning, according to poweroutage.us. Altogether, Louisiana still had over 260,000 outages Tuesday due to the storm that killed at least 42 people in the U.S. and Caribbean. Fifteen deaths have been confirmed in Louisiana, and four people died in Texas.
Crews also are racing to repair damaged water systems. More than 177,000 people had no access to water because of the storm, according to the Advocate.
In Beauregard Parish, officials are arranging transportation for anyone wanting to evacuate voluntarily, especially the elderly and people with medical needs, KPLC-TV reported.
Louisiana officials have been trying to avoid using shelters where large numbers of people congregate because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, anyone looking for a place to stay is told to go to a reception center in Alexandria, where they are then sent to a hotel or another smaller shelter.
Officials opened the Alexandria MegaShelter after hotels in the New Orleans reached capacity for evacuees. At that point, the reception center at the Shrine on Airline stadium in Metairie was closed.
Edwards said more than 10,000 evacuees are staying in hotels statewide. More than 9,000 of those were in the New Orleans area. In addition, 4,000 evacuees are in Texas hotels.
In the meantime, officials are warning people who haven’t gone to shelters to pay attention to the heat.
Southwest Louisiana is under a heat advisory through 8 p.m. Tuesday. Temperatures are expected to climb into the 90s, which, when combined with the humidity, could lead to heat index readings between 105 and 110.
James Harper, who lives in eastern Beauregard Parish, said he regrets not evacuating before Laura arrived at 1 a.m. on Thursday with 150 mph winds.
“When it got there, it kept pounding and pounding and pounding. There was twice when I wished I had never ever stayed,” Harper told KPLC.
“Rita, don’t get me wrong, it was pretty bad,” Harper said. “But it had nothing on this storm. Absolutely nothing.”