Extreme Weather – Extreme Devastation
Hurricane Laura made landfall in southwest Louisiana as a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds, hammering Texas and the Gulf Coast with extreme winds, heavy rains and powerful storm surge. The Hurricane left widespread destruction across Louisiana in its aftermath—one of the most powerful storms in U.S. history. The death toll has reached 27 people, several killed by falling trees in Louisiana, others dying from carbon monoxide poisoning from generators used indoors and some dying from the extreme heat that followed. The high winds devastated the city of Lake Charles and other Louisiana communities, adding new levels of suffering to poor and vulnerable communities of color on top of the COVID pandemic. Before making landfall on the Gulf Coast, Laura had cut a deadly path over the Dominican Republic after leaving 2 to 6 inches of rain in southern parts of Puerto Rico. At least 13 people died in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
While the speed of the storm’s passage diminished the expected storm surge, Laura tore apart homes and businesses and knocked out power in Texas and Louisiana. Widespread power and network outages left more than 400,000 people in Louisiana without power. With more than 150 transmission towers damaged, it will take weeks, if not months, to restore power to hardest hit communities. Alongside power outages, more than 100 water systems went down across the state, with 119 water systems under boil orders. The impact of power and water outages emerged as the priority concern as the heat index exceeded 100°F for the week following the storm. As of mid-September there were still over 73,000 customers without power in southwest Louisiana and over 12,000 residents in shelters across Louisiana and Texas. And then Hurricane Delta once again plunged many into darkness.
Our Emergency Team responded as the storm came ashore. Offers of aid went out to at least 80 partners in the region and multiple shipments of water were underway immediately.
Photo/Pu Ying Huang – Michael H. Captain Sr. points to the damage created by Hurricane Laura on his street in north Lake Charles, Louisiana on Sept. 2, 2020. Captain rode out the storm with his dog while many of his neighbors evacuated.