The mandatory evacuation for Calcasieu Parish was lifted Friday afternoon. However, several local officials said basic services remain limited, and residents choosing to return will have to be self-sufficient.
The executive order, signed by Police Jury President Tony Guillory, lifted the parishwide mandatory evacuation. The evacuation order had been in place since Aug. 25, just days before Hurricane Laura’s landfall. The 7 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew remains in effect.
Parish Administrator Bryan Beam said the positives of lifting the mandatory evacuation outweighed the negatives. Still, he said residents staying at hotels out of town should keep their reservations, especially if their home is severely damaged or without power.
Dick Gremillion, Calcasieu Office of Emergency Preparedness director, said there are no available shelters in the parish. COVID-19 presents issues with sheltering large groups of people, he said.
Residents should be careful while driving, because most street lights or traffic lights are not working, Gremillion said. Most water systems remain under a boil advisory. Sewer systems are working, but the lift stations are being powered by generators.
Emergency rooms at most hospitals are open, Gremillion said, but intensive care unit beds are limited.
“Medical services are going to be limited,” he said. “Do not expect full services.”
Lake Charles City Administrator John Cardone said water pressure is up, but plants are still being powered by generators. He said the city has cut off nearly 1,000 water meters so far. Wastewater plants are also being powered by generators.
“Citizens should understand what they are coming back to,” Cardone said.
Sulphur Mayor Mike Danahay said the recovery from Hurricane Laura is “light years ahead” compared to Hurricane Rita. He, along with Westlake Mayor Bob Hardey and Vinton Mayor Kenny Stinson, spoke of the limited services in their cities. Hardey said Westlake residents shouldn’t return until permanent power is restored.
Margaret Harris, Entergy Louisiana customer service representative, said power has been restored to 22,000 customers in Calcasieu Parish and a small portion of Cameron Parish. She said 68,000 customers remain without power.
“We’re making some progress, but there’s still a lot of work to do,” Harris said.
Harris said crews have replaced 8,800 distribution poles as of Friday, along with 2,300 transformers and 18,254 spans of wire on the low voltage system.
Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office Cmdr. Gene Pittman said daily crime and service calls have remained steady. He said 281 misdemeanor and felony cases have been filed since the storm, with the department averaging 40 cases per day before the storm. There were no looting calls over the last 24 hours, as of Friday.
There are 230 deputies working patrols and security daily, compared to roughly 65 deputies working on a given day before the storm.
Pittman stressed that residents use caution while driving, especially at night, and to stay off roadways, if possible.
“So far, this is the worst day of traffic I’ve seen,” he said.
Allen Wainwright, parish Public Works director, said garbage collection routes have fallen behind recently because of the large amounts of household garbage. Residents whose garbage wasn’t collected this week should call 721-3700. Those needing a new garbage can should call Waste Management at 436-7229.
Dominic DePolo with Waste Management said crews are currently collecting two to three times more household garbage than they did before Hurricane Laura. He said residents should separate household garbage from downed trees and other vegetative debris.
DePolo said garbage collection routes are nearly a day behind schedule. Trucks cannot collect garbage on some roads because of low utility lines and poles. Collection routes should return to their regular schedules by Monday, Sept. 14.
The deadline to file for other needs assessments, such as reimbursement for generators, chainsaws, carbon monoxide detectors and other related items, is Oct. 14.
Gremillion reminded residents to protect themselves from COVID-19 by wearing a mask and maintaining a 6-foot distance from others. Residents using a generator should not place them in an enclosed structure. They should also wear protective shoes when clearing debris and use caution when using chainsaws and other cutting tools.
The next briefing is set for 4 p.m. Monday.