Who can beat the bad luck of many of our Louisiana families in the Lake Charles area?
They need help, far beyond what they have so far received.
Jerome and Brandi Guillory are living in a trailer in their front yard in a neighborhood called Greinwich Terrace. They had moved into their house only five months before Hurricane Laura hit and were hoping to move back inside soon, after repairs were complete.
That was further delayed by Hurricane Delta, hitting six weeks later in the 2020 hurricane season. Then came an ice storm in the winter, and finally — just in time for new furniture for their rebuild — their house took in a couple feet of water on May 17, when Lake Charles was flooded by a major spring storm.
They’re ready to call it quits and accept a buyout.
“That was a back-breaker for us,” said Jerome Guillory, a 47-year-old truck driver. “When the buyout thing came, we considered that as a blessing, as a sign — ‘Hey, y’all need to get out of here.’”
The buyout program is from federal funds patiently put together, through a multitude of bureaucratic hoops, by the state Office of Community Development.
The office has developed one of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ rather underappreciated accomplishments, regional drainage and flooding plans based on the state’s watersheds.
Officials of the Louisiana Watershed Initiative have set aside $30 million to take homes in Lake Charles that flood repeatedly. That’s about 100 houses in Greinwich Terrace, out of a total of 600.
Given the tragically short housing stock in Lake Charles after the 2020-21 disasters, it is not clear if residents will remain in the region.
In June 2019, the Heartland Forward Institute ranked the Lake Charles area in the top 20 in the nation for growth. Now, battered by storms, it is a metro area losing population most rapidly.
The housing buyouts are one of the responses being worked out by state and local officials. But it is clearly not adequate to the scope of this disaster and Congress — unlike any other megastorm before Laura, in modern times — has not made a special appropriation to expand the aid available.
It’s past time for action by Congress.