BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – One week after a powerful Category 4 Hurricane Laura made landfall in Southwest Louisiana, more than 212,000 customers remain without power and more than 12,000 remain evacuated and are sheltering elsewhere in Louisiana and Texas.
“It’s useful to remember that it maintained hurricane strength almost all the way through its track in Louisiana up into the Lincoln and Ouachita parish area. That was the first time our state has experienced that and as a result, Hurricane Laura left a long trail of devastation and just catastrophic damage. And obviously it’s worse in Southwest Louisiana, but it’s very, very considerable throughout its track,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a Thursday morning briefing as the state continues to work toward recovery from the storm.
While power restoration is moving along more quickly in the northern areas of the state, Edwards said repairs will take longer in the south because of the extent of the damage to the infrastructure.
“This is very much going to be a marathon, not a sprint.”
So far, Edwards said, 92,000 people in Louisiana have registered for FEMA assistance.
On Thursday, Edwards said it was still not known for sure exactly how many Louisiana evacuees are in shelters in Texas because the state registers them by heads of households and not by the entire party traveling with them. He said the state is working with the Red Cross to get a better count. In the meantime, he is encouraging them to stay in Texas because “we don’t think we would be able to quickly absorb a large number of people into hotels” based on space that is currently available.
“If we had 4,000 people come back from Texas, we’d be very very hard pressed to meet that demand, so they should stay in Texas if they can,” said Edwards. “We obviously don’t commandeer hotels, so we have to get hotels to enter into contracts with us.”
On Wednesday, Edwards said the state will likely spend more than $700 million responding to the storm and its aftermath, with a large portion of the costs going to sheltering evacuees.
The governor praised the effort of the Louisiana National Guard during this third tour of Lake Charles on Wednesday afternoon while visiting a relief supply distribution staging point at the Lake Charles Civic Center. National guard soldiers handed out bottled water, ice, and tarps to residents needing help.
“In addition to the response to Laura, they continue to do the COVID testing. They continue to run food shelters across the state of Louisiana. They’re providing security. They’re clearing routes of debris. There’s no shortage of missions they can do.”