On August 26th, 2020, Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas were hit by one of the deadliest and most damaging hurricanes ever to hit the United States: Hurricane Laura. Hurricane Laura was classified as a Category 4 that tied with the 1856 Last Island hurricane as the strongest hurricane to make landfall on US records.
This hurricane had a maximum strength of 150 mph when it landed, only 8 mph away from being classified as a top-strength Category 5 hurricane. Crazily enough though, Hurricane Laura is not getting half the national coverage, help, money, or resources as any of the other major hurricanes that have hit the states. In 2005, When Hurricane Katrina hit and flooded New Orleans, there was immediate aid and national coverage. Celebrities reached out, and FEMA came without question. The same quick response was applied to Hurricane Harvey, which hit Houston terribly in 2017. These major attraction cities got more coverage and help because they needed to clean them up quickly and bring them back from the damages.
Hurricane Laura on the other hand, was just as devastating, but is not getting nearly the same amount of national attention as the first two storms. The eye of the storm was about 45 miles from Lake Charles, Louisiana, landing in the nearby city of Cameron. The structural damage has been so bad that some places needed to be rebuilt from scratch. Many places will lack power and water for months, causing displaced residents to journey back and forth from Lake Charles to their evacuation sites.
During Laura's landfall, the Isle of Capri casino boat was pushed away from the dock and blown into the 1-10 bridge, all while there was a chemical fire burning at the plants, releasing deadly chlorine into the air. This was cause for an immediate Stay Away legislative order, which meant that people couldn’t even come back to Lake Charles for days after, not even just to see their houses.
For many residents and even young adults that don’t live there anymore, this hurricane is more than just damage. It took our homes and if not ours, it took someone’s that we’ve known. As an SU Alum who was born and raised in Lake Charles, Alana LeMelle feels as though “We are screaming for help and no one hears us. There are single mothers sleeping in cars behind hotels with babies as young as 3 months old. Families are returning to their homes with holes in their roof, no power, and no running water, and people’s reactions to that is, ‘It’s better than being homeless.’ We’re not begging for help for no reason. We scream BLM, but our black people are suffering, and nobody gives a d*mn.”
LaMelle goes into detail about how, without the help of her line sisters of Alpha Kappa Alpha and other HBCU peer connections from other D9 organizations, she would not be able to speak out about the necessity’s families need to survive at this moment. In just one day, Alana was able to raise almost $2,000 to help buy a single mother with two children a generator, and was able to help many more with gas expenses, diapers, and food.
It is people like Alana and her peers that are really doing the absolute most to help Lake Charles. As stated before, Lake Charles is getting no help nationally, as most people are saying the storm surge did not hit as hard as expected. Now is that an acceptable reason? Not at all. This is thousands of people’s reality right now. No stability, no home to lay their head, no jobs to get income.
So, until, if ever, we get help, Lake Charles natives are taking it into their own hands with the help of other donations. To contribute to organizations helping Hurricane Laura victims you can donate to Alana herself by contacting her on her Instagram @__kaptivating. You can also donate to the SWLA Health Center. This health center was incorporated in 1978 and has been servicing the community ever since. If you feel more comfortable with that option, you can contribute to them directly by going to their donation website http://givebox.com/swlacenterforhealthservices54062.
In light of this unfortunate event, the state and the Black community as one should come together to help. This situation has opened many eyes, but we have also opened our eyes to the fact that if no one has Lake Charles’ back, Lake Charles has Lake Charles! #LCStrong