CLEANING UP AFTER LAURA
President tours La. and Texas in wake of Hurricane Laura
President Donald Trump visits storm-damaged states days after Hurricane Laura left tens of thousands without electricity.
Days after Hurricane Laura slammed into Louisiana, hundreds of thousands of people remained without electricity Saturday, with the situation especially dire in Lake Charles, a city near the coastline where nearly all 80,000 residents have been without power for days and many have no running water.
Amid that backdrop, President Donald Trump arrived in the troubled city, where residents were beginning to pick up the pieces after the hurricane that made landfall Thursday as a Category 4 storm.
“I’m here to support the great people of Louisiana. It’s been a great state for me,” Trump said in Lake Charles. “It was a tremendously powerful storm.” He added that he knows one thing about Louisiana: “They rebuild it fast.”
During the slightly more than two hours he spent in the city, Trump met with officials and relief workers but not any residents whose homes had been ripped apart in the storm.
He did, however, get a good look at the extensive damage and the debris strewn across the city, beginning with the bird’s-eye view from Air Force One as it came in for landing.
His first stop was a warehouse being used as a staging area for the Cajun Navy, a group of Louisiana volunteers who help with search and rescue after hurricanes and floods. “Good job,” Trump told them.
Trump then toured a neighborhood with Gov. John Bel Edwards and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, making his way down a street blocked by felled trees and where houses were battered by the storm, one with its entire roof torn off.
Edwards has said Laura was the most powerful hurricane ever to strike his state, surpassing even Hurricane Katrina, which was a Category 3 when it hit 15 years ago this month.
“Whether you come from Louisiana or 5th Avenue In New York, you know about Katrina,” Trump said.
Describing an overwhelmed water system that has frustrated residents and public officials alike, Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said, “We have water in some locations, but it’s a trickle.”
Trump struck a reassuring note with Hunter, saying, “You took a big punch, but you’ll be back.”
The president then flew by helicopter to Orange, Texas, which was the worsthit area in the state. Several hundred supporters greeted his arrival with Trump 2020 flags, banners and signs. Among the officials on hand were Texas
Gov. Greg Abbott and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
Before a tour by air over damaged areas, Trump and other officials visited the emergency operations center in Orange County to discuss storm damage and the government response.
Laura packed 150 mph winds and a storm surge as high as 15 feet, toppled trees and damaged buildings as far north as central Arkansas.
The electrical outages have been deadly, as several people who turned to generators to power refrigerators, lights and air conditioners have been overcome with fumes.
At least seven people have been killed by carbon monoxide from generators, including four members of a family found dead in a home in Lake Charles. A fifth member of that family was taken to a hospital. Their generator was in a garage and the deadly gas was able to seep into the house through a garage door that was left cracked open, Hunter said.
Another man in Calcasieu Parish, which includes Lake Charles, died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator, as did an 84-year-old man and an 80-year-old woman in the same home in Allen Parish, to the northeast, said health officials, who warned people never to place generators in homes or in closed garages.
The city’s largest hospital, Lake Charles Memorial Hospital Health System, whose phone lines were down, had to evacuate all patients to other hospitals and was operating only its emergency room. The hospital said on its website that pregnant mothers should leave the area because the hospital was not providing obstetric services except in emergencies.
The power failure in Lake Charles could go on for weeks, the mayor said, and people have been buying more gasoline to provide power to their homes.
“This is just way, way worse than Rita,” said Brett Geymann, 58, a former state lawmaker who lives in Moss Bluff, a suburb of Lake Charles, referring to the powerful hurricane that struck the area in 2005. He has been running a generator to operate his family’s refrigerator. “There is just destruction everywhere.”
In addition to the deaths tied to generators, five other people have died in Louisiana, four from falling trees and one person who drowned. In Texas, at least three deaths have been tied to carbon monoxide poisoning from generators.
Geymann said residents were increasingly worried about the lack of water as they contemplated not having flushable toilets or being able to wash their hands in a sink, particularly during the pandemic.
The virus is “not even an issue anymore for most people,” said Geymann.
President Trump tours storm damage with state and federal officials Saturday in Lake Charles, La. He also visited Texas.