Last week, a Category 4 hurricane ripped through the Louisiana coastline leaving 700,000 people without power across the tri-state area, which includes Texas and Arkansas. Out-of-state volunteers with Samaritan’s Purse arrived at the scene to lend aid to families in need in the wake of Hurricane Laura.
Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical nonprofit that is known for providing disaster relief, began efforts last week in Lake Charles. The organization will host its relief projects out of Sale Street Baptist Church.
Last weekend, roughly 25 volunteers from other U.S. states helped the Samaritan’s Purse team clear trees and other debris from resident’s personal property. Todd Taylor, director of U.S. disaster relief at Samaritan’s Purse, said volunteers have been able to help eight families recover from the devastating storm.
One homeowner said the storm had uprooted a gigantic oak tree on top of his family’s home, leaving a huge hole in the house. He and his family immediately evacuated the area for their own safety.
“The worst thing was leaving Wednesday morning knowing that I’m probably coming back to a completely changed city. Completely different from what I knew and loved,” homeowner Garrison Worthington said. “That I would probably come back to a house that would never be the same.”
Samaritan’s Purse also set up relief hubs in the cities of DeRidder and Jennings. While volunteers began work in DeRidder on Sunday, the efforts in Jennings didn’t become fully operational until Tuesday.
In order to make a bigger dent in the relief efforts, Taylor said more volunteers will be needed.
“Samaritan’s Purse is making a commitment to the state of Louisiana to help with the cleanup. We are going to be here for quite a while. This is a big storm,” Taylor said.
“The path of the wind was 100 miles from east to west. Those strong winds came about 75 miles inland. If you put that on a map, that is a big area. We need volunteers.”
The state of Louisiana is divided into 64 parishes in the same way other states are separated into counties. Until more volunteers are available, Samaritan’s Purse will focus on clearing trees and tarping homes in only three of the state’s parishes.
“When we are fully operational, we will be able to serve pretty close to the entire parish of the three parishes,” Taylor explained. “We are talking about dozens of small communities in each parish.”
The biggest obstacle in providing relief to the residents of Louisiana is the lack of power. Taylor said one homeowner told him it would be around two to three months until electricity is restored to her home.
“Because of severe infrastructure damage throughout these affected parishes, all of our [host] churches are having run on generators. We have to have the logistics taken care of to fuel those generators…,” Taylor said.
The entire sewer system is down in many places as well. Samaritan’s Purse cannot bring in additional volunteers until “porta-johns are dropped off,” Taylor added. He also said they are also having a difficult time attracting local volunteers because they have their own damage to tend to.