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January 13, 2021

Displaced by hurricanes

Opinion

January 13, 2021

Hurricane Laura, a category 4 storm with winds of nearly 150 miles an hour, hit on August 27, 2020 on the coast of southwest Louisiana. Forty-three days later, on October 9, Hurricane Delta, a category 2 storm with winds over 100 miles an hour, hit 10 miles away. Laura caused $19 billion in losses and Delta caused another $2.9 billion.

The brunt of the destruction has been in Calcasieu and Cameron Parishes. Calcasieu has a population of 203,000, according to the Census. Lake Charles, home to 78,000 people and the sixth biggest city in Louisiana, is the biggest city in Calcasieu. Cameron Parish, south of Calcasieu on the Gulf of Mexico, is populated by about 6900 people.

Nearly 47,000 homes were damaged by Hurricane Laura alone, 16,000 of which are in need of major repairs, according to Rebecca Santana of the Associated Press. Most of the damaged homes are in Calcasieu Parish. Though there are many fewer homes in Cameron, more than half were completely destroyed, according to local government authorities.

In late September, a month after Laura, many displaced families were still living in tents. Sherry Bourque and her disabled father James Baker used the last of their money and bought two tents at Dick’s Sporting Goods and lived in them in the back yard of their destroyed home. They had to stay close to deal with the insurance adjustors and contractors.

It is not at all unusual for homeowners and renters to have lived in five or more places since Hurricane Laura hit. For example, a retired homeowner of limited income with health issues left Lake Charles for College Station Texas for the first mandatory evacuation for Laura. Her home suffered so much damage it was unlivable. So she joined with other displaced members of her family and rented a small house in Lafayette, 70 miles away. They went back and forth to meet with insurance adjustors and contractors to get estimates for repairs. The family was forced to evacuate a second time weeks later as Delta approached spending several days in Port Arthur Texas. Once the insurance people and the contractors advised her it would be spring 2021 before her home was repaired, she moved into a small home in Lake Charles which had to have its roof replaced while she was living in it. Because she has homeowner’s insurance FEMA is not helping her. She has to pay utility bills at both houses in order to keep power on in both places to slow down the mildew damage on her unoccupied damaged home. She does not even have a final estimate of what the damage is on her house from insurance company yet.

Excerpted: ‘Past Time to Remember Thousands Displaced and Left Behind by Hurricanes Laura and Delta’

Commondreams.org