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PORT ALLEN: Displaced from Lake Charles just a few days ago, from left, Amber Lee Flores, her fiancé Allen Goree IV, Evelyn Lute and her husband Rocky Lute discuss their journey, late Friday afternoon, Oct. 9, 2020, outside Goree's parents' house in Port Allen. They are staying there now, and spoke as Hurricane Delta was appearing to weaken as it approached landfall in southwestern Louisiana, and they were worried about family there. Goree has a tree service, We Care Tree Care, which frequently follows hurricanes doing tree removal; his brother Le'Andre Allen Goree, 29, lost his life working in Lake Charles after Hurricane Laura, when one of their bucket trucks rolled over.

Rocky Lute and his family know the wrath and heartbreak of hurricanes.

As a child growing up in Cameron Parish, he survived the devastation of Hurricane Audrey in the 1950s, but many of his family members did not. He recalls the mass grave they dug for the dead and the losses that forced his family moved further inland to Lake Charles.

"Nobody could recognize anybody. They just dug a big hole and put everyone in it: animals, family,” said Evelyn Lute, 71, Rocky's wife. “That was Hurricane Audrey."

In 2005, Rocky Lute withstood the pummeling brought on by Hurricane Rita, and last month, he was once again forced to rebuild his home after Hurricane Laura charged through the city, leaving few buildings unscathed.

And now just a few short weeks after being displaced by Laura, he and his wife refused to take any chances ahead of Hurricane Delta. They rode out the storm with relatives in Port Allen.

“It was devastating all the way around, any way you look at it,” said Rocky Lute, 81.

The mayor of Lake Charles had ordered the city to evacuate ahead of Delta, fearing the already fragile community would be vulnerable and that it would be unsafe if many tried to weather out the latest storm.

Delta smashed ashore some 40 miles south of Lake Charles, near Creole, battering coastal communities that, too, were in the middle of rebuilding. The storm inundated much the coast with a tidal surge and winds greater than 100 mph shredded roofs and even tore open buildings along the coast.

The Lutes’ nephew, Allen Goree IV, runs a tree-trimming business and he had returned to Lake Charles to remove many that had fallen on his relatives' roofs after Laura. He often deploys to hurricane-stricken areas to remove trees and has been doing so with his father since he was 6 years old.

It’s a job he finds rewarding but also treacherous.

His brother, Le’Andre Allen Goree, 29, was killed the day after Laura struck when the bucket truck he was in veered into a ditch near Lake Charles.

“It's devastating, but I feel God is telling us something,” said Goree, 30, while speaking through a face mask with his brother’s name printed on it. “We gotta love and cherish each other.”

Of the more than two dozen deaths linked to Laura in Louisiana and Texas, the vast majority came days later, and most were caused by generator fume poisonings, falling trees and other accidents.

State officials reported no deaths overnight as Delta was barreling through the state but still warned about post-storm hazards.

Rocky Lute said Friday while hunkering down in Port Allen he’s still not sure when he’ll be able to return home safely and has no clue of what his neighborhood will look like.

He was in the process of repairing his garage that shifted when a tree fell on it and his electricity was finally restored a few weeks ago. Some of his neighbors’ homes fared much worse. Some were destroyed.

"We want to go home and have some power,” Goree said. “We didn't need no more.”


Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com, and follow him on Twitter @youssefrddad