LAKE CHARLES, La. (NewsNation Now) — Most people still don’t have electricity and about half now have running water, nearly two weeks since Hurricane Laura made landfall in Louisiana, as an extremely powerful Category Four storm.
Places along the state’s Gulf Coast are devastated, among them, the city of Lake Charles. Residents and businesses are struggling but determined to rebuild.
The National Guard has been there since the beginning, but now their mission is changing.
Col. David Desormeaux, the leader of the 256th infantry brigade, and other members of his team compared the devastation they’ve seen in Lake Charles to what they saw in Baghdad.
“I will say this is worse than anything the wind damage and the amount of damage to the power grid, and I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” he said.
These soldiers have responded to several storms over the years, and that response starts almost immediately.
“Within 12 hours of this storm clearing the area,” Desormeaux said. “We already had about 350 soldiers on the ground providing security.”
Around 2,400 National Guardsmen are working in eight parishes setting up points of distribution, but their focus is shifting over the next week.
“The brigade is going to begin to transition out of the area because we have to prepare for deployment,” he said.
The State of Louisiana is establishing a task force to replace members of the 256th in affected areas and residents will still get the help they need. The soldiers will begin predeployment training in the middle of October, according to Desormeaux.
“All this equipment you see right now, as soon as we wrap up here, we’re going to bring it back, get it cleaned up and inspected and fixed and ready to go in five weeks,” he said.
Moving all of the soldiers and their equipment out of a hurricane recovery zone is quite a task. Having to turn it so quickly in preparation to go overseas seems daunting.
“This is just what the guard guy does,” Desormeaux said. “We execute the state mission to save our citizens lives and property and then can turn right around and go do our federal mission seamless because that’s just who we are.”
For security reasons, they couldn’t tell NewsNation affiliate KLFY where exactly they will be going overseas.