More than a month has gone by since Lake Charles was assaulted by Hurricane Laura, perhaps the most ferocious storm to hit Louisiana since the Civil War.
Americans have already moved on, which is a shame because the community has great wounds that will take months or years to heal.
But these days, folks lose track of the news as soon as the Weather Channel pulls up stakes and moves on to the next storm.
Thousands remain unable to return to their homes and others are making do under tarped roofs. The Red Cross is providing aid to 16,000 people still in emergency lodging after the storm, according to regional communications and marketing director Stephanie Wanger.
President Donald Trump visited the community quickly, and federal relief has been flowing.
And to be sure, Americans have been generous. The American Red Cross has raised $11.1 million, the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana has raised $5.5 million, and United Way of Southwest Louisiana has raised $2.5 million.
But the storm’s fierce winds did so much damage they are still tallying it all up. Some analysts project that insured wind and storm damage to homes and businesses will range from $8 billion to $12 billion.
It’s unclear what the scope of uninsured losses are, but they are expected to be in the billions.
So Louisianians, and our fellow Americans, will have to dig deeper.
Denise Durel, the president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Louisiana, said her organization’s donations in the aftermath of Laura are only 75% of what was raised over the same period after Hurricane Rita, accounting for inflation. But Laura’s damage was far greater than the 2005 storm.
Lake Charles is off the beaten path, so most Americans will never get to see the damage. Even for those in other parts of Louisiana, the community is mostly a dot on the map on the way to Houston.
But people who have been in Lake Charles and the surrounding communities understand the damage. Everyone in Louisiana, too, knows that long-term recovery is a difficult road ahead.
Durel said the Florida Power and Light workers who have been helping to rebuild the Lake Charles electrical grid took up their own collection after seeing the extent of the devastation. They gave $4,870 to United Way.
Utility workers in Florida know how to judge the damage from a storm and the needs of a community.
We should follow their example and open our wallets and our hearts.