Double trouble: Louisiana pounded by two hurricanes in six weeks
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Lake Charles (United States) (AFP) –
After being pummelled by two hurricanes in six weeks, residents in this Louisiana city don't even know which storm to blame for the area's widespread damage.
"Honestly, I can't tell what was from what hurricane," sheriff's deputy Aymond said of the debris littering the streets of Lake Charles.
"It's like when somebody gets beat up, and already has a black eye... you don't know if this black eye was from the last time or not," he said.
Louisiana has received more than its share of punches recently, especially the oil refinery city of Lake Charles, which was smacked squarely by Hurricane Laura in late August and by Hurricane Delta on Friday.
Delta broke a record by becoming the 10th named storm of the year to make landfall in the United States, with a whopping six of those affecting Louisiana in some way.
Even though Delta wasn't catastrophic -- it mostly damaged roofs and flooded some homes -- residents of this area are exhausted from preparing for storms, evacuations and the inevitable power outages.
The hits are particularly painful to the modest coastal communities in Louisiana, one of the poorest US states.
"I'm born and raised in Lake Charles, I've never seen all this disaster. Two hurricanes in two months," 49-year-old Brian Moore said with a sigh, as he searched for gasoline for his generator.
Moore's house was "totally destroyed" by Laura, and he had just moved into a new home when Delta hit.
A few miles to the east, in the small town of Iowa, John Thibodeaux cooked sausages over a charcoal grill for himself and his neighbors.
"It's just the right thing to do. If you're going to be eating, and no one else is eating, that's not right. You know, feed your neighbors too," he said.
- Bad sense of humor -
But one look at his face and it's clear Thibodeaux hasn't been able to get much sleep, and he says he feels awful.
"If this is Mother Nature... Mother Nature has a bad sense of humor," he said.
Thibodeaux waited out Laura in a local hotel, but the business was too damaged by the hurricane and had to close.
For Delta, he decided to hunker down in his wooden house, typical of the region. But his temporary repairs didn't hold up and rain seeped in overnight.
Still, he keeps a good perspective.
"After Laura, when I got out the hotel... it looked like a thermonuclear bomb went off," he said.
Rob Gaudet, founder of the Cajun Navy volunteer rescue group, agreed that the damage from Delta was "not as bad."
Its members ventured into the wind and rain barely three hours after Delta's landfall to search for people who had not been able to evacuate, many of them the poorest and most vulnerable members of society.
Robert Berard, 68, was one of those who received help from the Cajun Navy.
"I sent up my mom to Baton Rouge for Laura," he said, referring to the state capital two hours away. "She's been there ever since."
But Berard stayed behind to keep an eye on his business, fearing looting in the storm's aftermath.
Laura destroyed his house and he has been living in a small adjacent building -- until it flooded overnight. He arrived barefoot at a Cajun Navy shelter in the center of Lake Charles.
"I don't want to go through it again, no one does," he said, still visibly shaken but happy to have received new shoes.
"Next time, I'll evacuate."
© 2020 AFP