Calcasieu Parish is still under mandatory evacuation two weeks after Hurricane Laura made landfall in the southwest region of Louisiana.
“The moment that changes, we will, certainly, communicate that publicly,” said Calcasieu Parish Administrator Bryan Beam at a Wednesday news conference.
Beam said the reasons for continuing the mandatory evacuation include the lack of electricity throughout most of the parish, limited medical service, boil advisories in most places, and remaining traffic issues.
There remains a parish-wide curfew from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Dick Gremillion, emergency preparedness director for Calcasieu issued a reminder about the proper use of generators. “We’ve had seven carbon monoxide deaths in the parish since the hurricane,” he said. There was one drowning death, which Gremillion said was the only death during the storm. “We’ve had many injuries and many fatalities — too many,” he said. Those using generators are directed to place them in an open, outdoor area. He also advised residents to wear protective shoes when working outdoors given the number of nails, glass, and other hazards resulting from the storm. “Use extra care if you’re working on a roof,” he said. “We still have limited emergency room capacity at most of the hospitals.”
The National Guard is still distributing food (primarily MREs), water, ice and tarps throughout the parish. Locally those sites include McMurry Park, 300 S. St. in Sulphur; St. Theodore’s Holy Family School, 785 Sam Houston Jones Parkway in Moss Bluff; Vinton Elementary School at 1610 Hampton St., Vinton; The Railroad Museum at 400 Lake Charles Avenue in DeQuincy and Westwood Elementary at 1900 Sampson St. in Westlake.
At present, there are 120 Calcasieu Parish deputies working crime prevention, regular patrols, providing security for pharmacies and other critical infrastructure and providing escorts for utility companies.
Gene Pittman, Commander with the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, reported that local law enforcement is receiving assistance from more than 200 deputies from throughout the state. There have been a total of 79 calls regarding looting, and 17 people have been arrested as a result. The CPSO has made a total of 42 arrests since the hurricane. Pittman said there has been significant damage to the jails and prison and no inmates are being housed in Calcasieu Parish until electricity is restored.
Debris removal in unincorporated areas has been ongoing for the last five days. According to Allen Wainwright, parish director of public works, to date, there have been 2,600 large loads of debris hauled to parish sites, totaling about 120,000 cubic yards. Wainwright said there is enough capacity at the parish’s debris sites to handle what was lost to the storm.
“We’re asking people to please sort your debris,” said Wainwright. Residents are asked to separate what they place at the road into vegetation, construction debris, white goods/appliances and electronics, and hazardous house waste.
If you are missing a trash can call the Waste Management hotline for cans at 337-436-7229.
Also, residents are asked to keep drainage ditches and roadways clear to allow ease of passage for utility companies. Parish crews are currently working to clear the sight lines at intersections.
Wainwright said workers have been busy erecting fallen Stop signs. To report a downed sign call 337-721-3700.
Contractors interested in doing work anywhere in Calcasieu must obtain a permit through the parish’s Planning and Development Office, currently located at the Prien Lake Park, 3700 West Prien Lake Road in Lake Charles. For more information call 337-721-3600 or 337-721-3610.
Currently, there are 13,800 resources working toward electricity restoration efforts in the area. “We are on a critical path now to get some additional power into our area,” said Margaret Harris with Entergy. She said the utility company hopes to see that happen over the next few days.
The company’s highest priority, according to Harris, has been restoring power to hospitals, sewer and water systems and emergency response facilities.
She asked that residents understand that traffic is an issue for utility workers and power restoration will be slower coming if crews can’t reach the damage.
Also, she warned residents to not assume a downed power line isn’t “hot” or conducting electricity. To report a downed line call 1-800-Entergy.
Harris said much of the progress made by Entergy is not visible to the public, for instance repairs to transmission structures located outside residential hubs. She said with regard to lower voltage systems, thus far, 6,600 poles have been found to be down and damaged along with 330 miles of distribution line and 2,900 transformers have been destroyed. Also, there is damage to 1,600 of the company’s transmission system structures. Harris noted that it is easier to restore power to some areas than others and, as the result of the way grids are sometimes laid out, it is possible for a resident to get power back and their neighbor to be left in the dark.
Also, utility crews are replacing downed poles throughout the parish and then, possibly a few weeks later, cleanup crews will be by to collect the fallen poles.
A representative from FEMA directed residents to visit FEMA.gov/disaster/4559 or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) for any hurricane-related information. The website can answer questions about why an application for assistance was denied along with other frequently asked questions.