As we approach the first anniversary of Hurricane Laura, the people of Southwest Louisiana would like to express our appreciation for the support we have received from our neighbors across Louisiana. Many people, companies, and volunteer organizations provided supplies, monetary donations, food and hands-on volunteer work. We have made much progress, yet there is still more work to be done to get our residents back in their homes.

As the volunteer chairperson of the Southwest Louisiana Long Term Recovery Team, I can attest to the significant challenges we are facing after the five federally declared disasters in the last COVID-19 year. Six weeks after Hurricane Laura, Hurricane Delta made landfall causing even more destruction. Winter Storm Uri left thousands of residents with damage from frozen pipes, and then historic levels of flooding in May caused thousands of homeowners to start their home repairs again after just completing their rebuilding from the hurricanes.

To put the magnitude of these damages in perspective, a housing study done pro bono by McKinsey & Co. shows that over 44,000 (50%-plus) households in Calcasieu Parish alone were damaged due to the storms, with an estimated 26% deemed a total loss. Nearly all households filed individual assistance claims with FEMA in the other four weather disasters.

Housing is the number one need in Southwest Louisiana. It drives all other aspects of recovery. We know that our neighbors in many other parts of South Louisiana know all too well what we are living right now. We could use your help. Please consider sharing your time and talents, whether you are skilled or unskilled in home repair, with one of the national or local disaster volunteer teams working in Lake Charles and surrounding communities, www.rebuildingswla.org.

BRUCE BAKER

Long Term Recovery Team

Lake Charles