Hurricane Recovery 2020
This Disaster Appeal is now closed.
Beneficiary: All Hands and Hearts: Smart Response
Power is cut, so your view is lit partly by sunlight pouring down from holes in the ceiling. Your mind cycles through worries: How long you can afford to live in a hotel? Who will get the tree off your garage? Will your spouse cry when they see the damage?
Now imagine you’ve done this so recently before that it’s beginning to feel like a routine. This is the reality faced by people living in small towns near coastal Louisiana. Hurricane Delta made landfall there Friday, just six weeks after Hurricane Laura damaged nearly every home in the area.
“Add Laura and Delta together and it’s just absolutely unprecedented and catastrophic,” said Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter. “We are very concerned that with everything going in the country right now that this incident may not be on the radar nationally like it should be.”
“I’m taxed out. And I think that’s most people in town,” said resident Katie Prejean McGrady. “There’s a mental exhaustion that sets in and then there’s a fear of ‘Does anybody outside this region care?’”
In southwest Louisiana, the streets are still littered with moldy mattresses, cut-up trees, rusty nails, and pieces of furniture broken to bits by Hurricane Laura. Blue tarps cover countless shredded rooftops. Mobile homes are still without power or water. Many homes have lost walls or have totally collapsed. And now residents are fleeing again in anticipation of a second round of destruction caused by Hurricane Delta.
“We just got lights back on like two weeks ago and then evacuating again? It’s extremely hard,” evacuee Roslyn Kennedy told the Associated Press.
"We just can't seem to get a break from the weather," another resident told NBC News.
Delta is already causing heavy rain in Baton Rouge and storm surge is expected this evening. Waters could take days to recede. Additionally, officials are worried all the debris mentioned above could turn into “missiles” in the 100+ mph winds.
Hurricane Sally dumped more than two feet of rain on Florida, Alabama, and Georgia this week.
There are two reported deaths, hundreds of water rescues, and half a million homes and businesses without power. Sally brought a storm surge of five feet — the third worst in the area's history. Flood damage is already widespread, and communities are bracing for even more as swelling rivers threaten to break records, submerge bridges, and swamp more homes this weekend.
“I can't comprehend the damage it's done," said store owner David Middleton, who had to chainsaw his way into his small business.
"I am a veteran and I have a memorial back there," said Gulf Shores, Alabama resident Richard Franzen through tears. "It's underwater. I lost some of my friends in Vietnam, but it's gone."
Cleaning up the current amount of damage Sally has inflicted could take months or years.
In the wake of Hurricane Laura, 700,000 homes and businesses remain without power. 200,000 people have no access to water due to inoperable water systems. Roads are impassable. Houses are flattened. Coastal towns are flooded.
“There is extreme devastation,” Tim Dupont, the fire chief for the coastal parish of Cameron, Louisiana, told the Weather Channel. “There’s not a whole lot left.”
And this is just the beginning. The destruction is so bad that officials cannot yet access some areas, making full assessment impossible for now. But there is no doubt Hurricane Laura caused extensive damage primarily in low-income rural areas. Recovery, hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, will be long, difficult, and expensive.
Updated 8/27/2020 11:55pm (CT)
Hurricane Laura made landfall as a Category 4 at about 1am (CT) Thursday morning near the district of Cameron in Louisiana and tracked north along the Texas-Louisiana border. Thankfully, the 20ft “unsurvivable” storm surge that was predicted did not materialize, but the 9ft storm surge that did created flooding that could spread up to 40 miles inland and may take days to recede. One person is confirmed dead in Louisiana, but that number is expected to rise as officials as search and rescue operations begin. The extent of the damage is not yet known, but there is no doubt that Laura caused and is causing extensive damage primarily in low-income rural areas. Recovery, hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, will be long, difficult, and expensive. As of this morning, Laura has weakened as it moves inland to a dangerous Category 2 storm, but could intensify to hurricane status again when it reaches the Arkansas border later today.
As Hurricane Laura nears landfall on the Texas and Louisiana border, Foundation Beyond Belief is asking for your generous donation to our Hurricane Recovery 2020 Appeal. As a weaker tropical storm, Laura is already responsible for at least 23 deaths in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Laura has strengthened rapidly in the Gulf and is currently a Category 4 hurricane. Storm surges could be as high as 18 feet, and with coastal Louisiana's low-lying geography, there could be flooding up to 35 miles inland reaching the I-10 corridor.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott is strongly urging evacuation from affected zones, emphasizing that we are facing "an unsurvivable storm surge where it will be hitting." Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is also urging residents to evacuate and has fully activated the Louisiana National Guard--the first time since Hurricane Isaac in 2012--because he anticipates extensive search and rescue efforts.
In Port Arthur and elsewhere, disasters hit low-income communities the hardest and recovery periods are much longer. Many places in the storm’s path have not yet recovered from Hurricane Harvey. And now they are about to be hit again.
This deadly storm will cause widespread damage and require extensive response and recovery, made more complex by the current pandemic. Shelters will have the added expense of providing space and supplies to reduce spread of COVID-19. They must enforce social distancing and disinfecting guidelines for the safety of volunteers and evacuees. Shelter evacuees are more likely to have poor health care coverage, making it particularly important that such safety measures be well-funded.
The 2020 Hurricane Season is expected to be more active than average and we expect this will not be the last major hurricane this season. FBB will keep this campaign open through the end of the Atlantic hurricane season.
The Humanist Disaster Recovery program is sustained through a partnership between Foundation Beyond Belief and the American Humanist Association (AHA).
We thank AHA for their generous support of our efforts.
'I can't comprehend the damage it's done' | Gulf Shores residents return to see damage done by Hurricane Sally (CBS Local New Orleans)
Hurricane Sally floods homes, blows of roofs in Gulf Shores (CBS Local New Orleans)
Hurricane Laura Death Toll Climbs to 14 in U.S.; Several Victims Succumbed to Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (The Weather Channel)
Hurricane Laura Strengthens Into a Category 4; Catastrophic Strike Ahead Near Louisiana and Texas Border (The Weather Channel)
Texas Governor Greg Abbott: Approaching Hurricane Laura Described As Having An ‘Unsurvivable Storm Surge’ (CBS Local Dallas Fort Worth)
Two Years After Hurricane Harvey, Port Arthur Remains in Disaster Recovery Limbo (Texas Observer)
Hurricane Laura barrels toward the US (CNN)
Tropical Storm Laura Kills at Least 23 People in Haiti, Dominican Republic (The Weather Channel)
Compounding Disasters During COVID19 (FBB)
U.S. Disaster Response Scrambles To Protect People From Both Hurricanes And COVID-19 (NPR)