Hurricane Laura Recovery: Numbers that help you understand what’s going on

More than 600,000 people don’t have regular water service

By: - September 1, 2020 6:30 am
Lake Charles after Hurricane Laura

A garage of a home on Ethel Street in Lake Charles is destroyed by Hurricane Laura. (Photo by Wes Muller/LA Illuminator, Saturday Aug. 29, 2020.)

The following are some figures that should help the public understand the impact of Hurricane Laura on Louisiana. 

600,000 people face water restrictions — or have no water at all. 

There are 74 water systems in Louisiana — affecting about 180,000 people total — where there is a “water outage” due to Hurricane Laura. That means people have no access to running water at all. Also because of the storm, there are 150 other water systems — affecting around 422,000 people — that are requiring residents to boil water before it can be used.  

Many of these systems will come back online relatively quickly when people get power back in their communities, but others could take far longer.

The “grid infrastructure” in Calcasieu Parish, Cameron Parish and Vernon Parish is extremely damaged, said Gov. John Bel Edwards at a press conference Monday. The governor doesn’t expect power to be restored in Calcasieu, the home parish of Lake Charles, for another three weeks.

Some of the water systems may have been affected because they were already damaged prior to the storm arriving. Rural communities in Louisiana have struggled for years to maintain their water and sewer infrastructure. 

“Quite frankly, we don’t know the degree to which it was the storm or preexisting problems that we are dealing with,” Edwards said. “I’m not going to pretend that our water systems were where we wanted them to be before the storm happened.” 

10,000 evacuees are taking shelter in 43 hotels

Louisiana is trying to avoid using “congregant” hurricane shelters — where people stay together in large, open spaces — because of COVID-19. Instead, it is putting up people who need shelter after Hurricane Laura in hotels around the state. Most of these hotels — 32 of the 43 — are located in New Orleans, Edwards said. 

The state is still trying to find hotel rooms — or even empty apartments — to house people. On top of the 10,000 people in Louisiana hotels, about 4,000 people are staying in Texas hotels with the help of the Texas government, Edwards said. 

The governor said the current benefits should allow people to stay in the hotels for at least 30 days. After that point, the state hopes that another federal program will allow the people who need to stay in those hotels for a longer period. 

People who need to stay in a hotel should go to the “mega-shelter” in Alexandria in order to be assigned a spot by the state. That is the “reception center” for the state’s sheltering efforts.

15 deaths attributed to the storm 

Eight of the 15 people who have died as a result of the storm were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning. Edwards urged people to be very cautious when using a generator, which can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. People should only use generators outdoors and away from windows, he said. 

It feels like it’s 105 degrees in Lake Charles

Gov. John Bel Edwards said this weather remains a “real challenge” for cleaning up and doing repairs, especially when there is no power or water in some areas. He urged people to take frequent breaks while doing recovery work. 

The heat index was between 105 and 108 degrees in the southwestern Louisiana communities most devastated by Hurricane Laura Monday. The temperature is expected to remain high for the next few days. 

4,000 tests verses 15,000 tests 

The hurricane has slowed the state’s ability to robustly test for COVID-19. Louisiana only reported receiving the results of a little over 4,000 coronavirus tests on Monday. Typically, it has been more like 15,000 or 20,000 tests being performed on a daily basis. 

The Louisiana Department of Health’s own data shows that Louisiana reached a high point of performing around 44 tests for every 10,000 residents in the middle of July. But last week, there was a sharp decline. Only 22 tests were being performed for every 10,000 residents as of Aug. 26 — an average the state hasn’t seen since the middle of June. 

Overall though, Louisiana is seeing a drop in its coronavirus infection rate and hospitalizations. Edwards attributed this primarily to the mitigation measures put in place statewide in July — including a face-covering mandate and bar closures. But he said it would still be helpful to have more widespread testing, especially at this moment.

“At a time when I would want more testing that ever — both to gauge what’s happening in terms of Hurricane Laura but also because we know we resumed our K-12 schools and higher education over the last couple of weeks — we really are at a low point in terms of community testing,” Edwards said. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press.