Rural Water Responds to Devastating Hurricane Laura
Hurricane Laura struck the Louisiana coastline as a Category 4 storm on Thursday, August 27, 2020. Early Thursday morning, Laura was reaching windspeeds up to 110 miles per hour. The storm caused water outages at 69 Louisiana water systems, affecting approximately 180,000 people. An additional 152 water systems have been placed on a boil water advisory.
Rural Water, being no stranger to these types of disasters, was prepared and ready to respond to the damage when conditions were safe. Georgia, Texas, Florida, and Louisiana Rural Water Associations provided equipment, staff and support in the response effort. In the days after the storm passed, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama Rural Water Associations also plan to make their way to southwest Louisiana to aid in the response and recovery in the coming weeks.
Louisiana Department of Health (LDH), has been operating out of the LRWA office in Kinder to coordinate the response efforts. The assessment and response teams are being made up of personnel from EPA, Army Corp of Engineers, FEMA along with Rural Water Staff from multiple states. Work crew assistance from St. Charles Parish Utilities, and Mustang Utilities (Texas) was also provided.
The disaster response teams have completed initial assessments on-scene in five parishes: Calcasieu, Cameron, Beauregard, Vernon, Allen and Evangeline, while isolating issues and making repairs. Generators and supplies are still being delivered to the affected areas. A total of 82 systems were assigned to specific teams to coordinate with and assist.
“Hurricane Laura will be remembered for years because of the large-scale damage,” said Rusty Reeves, LRWA Deputy CEO and Training Director. “We have delivered generators from the Lake Charles area to the Monroe area. Many of these systems had generators onsite, but the generators failed after several days of operation.”
Each morning, the team based at the LRWA headquarters sends teams comprised of personnel from the agencies and associations who have been a part of the response effort. Some teams are assessment teams and others are assisting in delivering and connecting generators, and locating, isolating, and assisting in the repair of leaks. Reeves said most systems are experiencing damage due to wind and uprooted trees. Many leaks are being reported on the customer side of the meter.
“The hours are long the days seem short. Phone service has been spotty, and we are working off of hotspots for internet,” Reeves said.
In one area, the wind speeds overturned a full 100,000-gallon water tower, which supplied the town of Holly Beach. Now, it is completely gone. Rural Water has provided emergency generators to about 30 systems so far. These generators are vital to ensure treatment systems and pumps are operating.
The repairs needed after Laura are expected to take multiple weeks. With trees being uprooted, water lines were snapped and will now have to be located, cut out and replaced.
When looking back on the storm, Pat Credeur, Executive Director of LRWA, told Circle of Blue, “Trees fell down like dominoes.”
The NRWA Disaster Response Truck is on-scene in the affected areas. The truck is being utilized by the State Association Affiliates to transport generators and other equipment necessary to help systems recover.
NRWA will be providing updates as information comes in.