LAKE CHARLES, La. (NewsNation Now) — Louisiana has taken a punch this month with an extremely active weather season.
In Lake Charles, there is still damage as far as the eye can see from Hurricane Laura. NewsNation spoke with Mayor Nic Hunter to discuss where things stand and where his city goes from here.
“Water is a powerful foe, but wind is also a powerful foe,” said Hunter. “And it does not look like a hurricane came through Lake Charles. It looks like a tornado hit every street in the city.”
The historic downtown business district is stirring up pride in Hunter, a native of the city, who says the area has had a real revitalization within the last 15 years. Hurricane Laura unraveled much of the city’s progress and upgrades in one fell swoop. A street, home, power pole or parish rarely went unscathed.
“I can tell you early estimates are that 90-95 percent of the structures in the city of Lake Charles took some damage,” said Hunter. “And so this is going to be a monster of a recovery effort, and it’s going to be going on for weeks and months, probably years.”
The city is now waiting on final FEMA estimates to put a price tag on damage and what Washington is willing to reimburse.
“The debris estimates, just for the city of lake Charles, is $60 million,” Hunter said. “Just for removing debris.”
This for a city that runs on $75 million a year. Hunter said if the city was forced to pay even 25 percent of the costs, it would decimate Lake Charles financially. In the interim, it’s neighbors helping neighbors during a hurricane season that feels like it’s just getting started.
“It’s very nerve-wracking,” said Hunter. “That’s the best phrase I can say is it’s very nerve-wracking, and it will probably feel that way until hurricane season is over.”
Despite the storm anxiety that is very much palpable in the aftermath, Mayor Hunter lauding locals for a rebuilding he calls ‘herculean.’
“Though this was a catastrophe, though it was a tragedy, this is by no means a knock-out punch for the city of Lake Charles,” he said.
For those who feel led to help, Mayor Hunter says donations to United Way or the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana are generous places to give.