Hurricane Laura Ravages Louisiana Communities

As the global pandemic rages on, portions of the United States are battling an all-too-familiar threat: hurricane season. During the early hours of Aug. 27, the storm made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in southwestern Louisiana, with winds as high as 150 miles per hour. Forbes reporter Nicholas Reimann writes that the storm was “the strongest hurricane by wind speed in the state since at least 1856.” He continued, saying that “hundreds of thousands of people still lack access to clean water in their homes, oil sheens stretch through miles of wetlands and now mosquitos have been spawned in such numbers that thick swarms are killing cattle and horses.”

While the storm made landfall two weeks ago, 280,000 are still without power, all while heat advisories are continually being issued. Kenzie Elkins, an art major and Louisiana native, said, “I think probably the worst part about this hurricane, honestly, is how many people don’t have power. People can’t cook, clean, bathe or work.” As far as relief efforts go, she said, “Some of our friends still don’t have power, so my family is bringing meals to them.”

While the storm is the most powerful one the area had ever faced, it wasn’t the first time that Southwest Louisiana had been ravaged by a major hurricane. Hurricane Rita, which made landfall in September of 2005, caused an estimated $18.5 billion in damages and is considered one of the most intense tropical cyclones recorded in the Gulf of Mexico. While Rita devastated Louisiana, Hurricane Katrina made landfall just a few weeks earlier, taking most of the publicity. Despite this, many from the southwest consider Rita the benchmark for storms.

Katrina and Rita’s destruction, while catastrophic, also provided some much-needed regulations and changes that have since left the area more prepared for storms than ever before. The New York Times reports that the two hurricanes “led to changes in construction codes to make buildings less vulnerable to the violent winds and ruinous floodwaters of major storms. Some homes close to the coast were elevated as high as 14 feet or more.” They also claim that unfortunate memories encouraged some to be prompt in their evacuations, saying, “Rita probably prompted people to take evacuation orders this week more seriously than they had before. Roughly half a million people evacuated this week in advance of the storm, which may have contributed to its relatively low death toll of 14 people.”

While the storm only had a direct impact on a small area, many other locations are facing the impact. Hannah Lawrence, a junior intercultural communication major and Louisiana native, said that her dad lives in Shreveport, which is approximately three and a half hours from Carlyss, Louisiana, the city that felt the brunt of the storm. “He is from Shreveport, and they did not get much damage from the storm. Their power went out for a few days, but that was the worst of it. I know that there was a lot more damage farther south, but we are thankful that no power was the worst of our problems.”

In addition to the mass power outages, approximately 15,000 are living without running water. Another issue that the state faces in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura includes oil spills. An estimated 1,400 oil wells have been compromised from the storm, and a photographer taking aerial shots noted 20 miles of oil sheen in the bayous. Reports have also come in of mosquitoes swarming in thick clouds and killing off cattle and horses by the hundreds.