LAKE CHARLES, La. (KLFY) — Gov. John Bel Edwards and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell pleaded with Louisiana citizens along the coast to prepare for the possibility of another hurricane on the anniversary of 2020’s Hurricane Laura.
Edwards and Criswell had plans to tour Lake Charles today to review the current state of hurricane recovery there. Criswell said since Hurricane Laura, close to 24 million cubic yards of debris has been removed from the Lake Charles area — enough to fill the Superdome six times over. Meanwhile, 63,000 storm survivors have received at least some sort of aid for home repairs, rental assistance and item replacement with 2,400 households still in some sort of temporary housing situation.
Hurricane Laura was the most powerful storm to hit Louisiana since 1856, Criswell pointed out. On top of that, the area was also hit by Hurricane Delta, a winter storm and a major flooding event in the space of one year.
Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter thanked FEMA for its work before and immediately after the storm, but on the one-year anniversary of Laura, he said the federal government’s failure to allocate further recovery funding hs “unacceptable.” He pointed out that the Road Home program after Hurricane Katrina moved $9 billion to help reestablish New Orleans. After 2016’s flooding, the Restore Louisiana program funnelled over $650 million in aid to those affected.
“What do we have?” said Hunter. “Here in Southwest Louisiana, 365 days after having gone through four federally-declared natural disasters, related to a program the likes of which Road Home program or Restore was, we have zero. $9 billion. $650 million. What do we have today? Zero. And it’s unacceptable. And so we continue to plead with Washington D.C. to provide that needed aid.”
Hunter and Edwards both praised FEMA for their help, and noted that the main stumbling block in Lake Charles at the moment, is actually coming from Congress and the president’s office. Specifically, President Joe Biden’s signature is all that is needed to help reduce the cost-share Louisiana and Lake Charles have to bear in the recovery process.
“Without (Community Development Block Grants) or without supplemental disaster aid, individual assistance through FEMA is one of the only trickles of hope, one of the only sources of relief some of our most vulnerable have in our community,” said Hunter.
Edwards said officials are making their case to Congress and the president that there is $3 billion in unmet needs related to the recovery effort. He said he believed more funding will come from the feds in the month of September.
All of this comes as the state of Louisiana faces the possibility of another hurricane within the week. Both Edwards and Criswell asked residents to start preparing for the possibility of a storm now. The storm is expected to intensify very quickly and could be a major storm upon landfall on Sunday or Monday. The governor said the thought of having to shelter potential evacuaees from the storm in the midst of the fourth surge of COVID-19 across the state is “daunting.” Both he and Criswell advised residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible.