Hurricane Laura hits Louisiana, Texas

Courtesy Photos/The Bison

Matthew Gower

Assistant News Editor

Hurricane Laura made landfall in Louisiana and Texas early Aug. 27, leaving destruction and devastation to the residents in its wake.

The Category 4 storm impacted much of southern Louisiana and southern Texas with power outages, flooding and evacuation orders.

The death toll is currently 22 in Louisiana and five in Texas, with search efforts still underway.

 Prior to Hurricane Laura, Louisiana and Texas prepared for the storm by activating members of the National Guard to be ready for relief efforts.

 This is the first time Louisiana’s entire 3,000-member National Guard would be activated in eight years, last since when they assisted with the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac.

According to CNN, “people need to heed the warnings they have been given to evacuate,” Louisiana Gov.  John Bel Edwards said.“We do believe there will be extensive search  and rescue after this storm.”

By Aug. 26, around 1.5 million Texas and Louisiana residents were told to evacuate through mandatory and voluntary orders.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency arrived to assist, evacuating residents while following safety precautions for the coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview with CNN, Mike Steele, communications director at the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said, “What’s being done on a state level, instead of picking them up and taking them to state-operated shelters, they’re being picked up and taken to hotel rooms because of COVID concerns. We’re trying to avoid congregate sheltering.”

In Houston, Texas, similar efforts were taken with some evacuees moved to hotels instead of state-operated shelters.

Some are being told they can no longer stay at the hotels and to call a 1-800 number to make other arrangements in different areas of Texas for the time being.

With many homes  destroyed and some still intact but without electricity or water, evacuees and their families are trying to figure out where they can or should go next.

As of Sept. 4, more than 183,000 customers remain without electricity, according to the Louisiana Public Service Commission.

FEMA and Red Cross are working with The Texas Division of Emergency Management to assist evacuees moving forward.

Other organizations are working on relief projects and donations to aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, including Project Hope, Samaritan’s Purse and many others.

Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief teams are also currently assisting in Lake Charles, Louisiana, with a group of 60 volunteers.

According to Don Williams, Oklahoma Baptist’s Disaster Relief state director, they hope to increase the number of volunteers to around 100 for these efforts.

According to their website okdisasterhelp.org, “this team of volunteers has received 75 work orders, involving cleanup with tree limb removal, and 15 of the orders have already been completed.”

“We are bringing our large generator to bring light to the church, which seems so fitting. We have a partnership with Red Cross and will be feeding those impacted,” Williams said.

The team is making thousands of meals a day for residents. To follow COVID-19 safety precautions the residents stay in their cars and the meals are brought to them as they line up around the church.

The Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief team was the first of many teams sent to Lake Charles with others in the Southern Baptist Convention joining the relief efforts as well.

According to their website, Oklahoma Disaster Relief, formerly the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), formed their disaster relief ministry in 1973 with a plan  that included “financial aid, immediate emergency assistance and repairing/rebuilding as necessary and requested.

The first response given  financially was in North Central Oklahoma (Enid area) when flash flooding destroyed much property.

A free-will offering was taken in churches throughout the state and over $25,000 was divided among all victims (individuals and churches). [The organization has] over 5,000 trained members and are organized into five geographic zones throughout the state.”

“Volunteers also can provide water purification, mobile showers and laundry, chain saw debris removal, mud-out, ash-out, child care and medical assistance,” according to their website.

 To donate to the Disaster Relief effort or undergo volunteer training to join the project, visit their website okdisasterhelp.org.

Volunteer training takes place Sept. 12, Oct. 17 and Nov. 7.

Pre-registering for training is required.

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