Lake Charles city officials remember Hurricane Rita seven years - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Lake Charles city officials remember Hurricane Rita seven years later

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City of Lake Charles Project Specialist Eligha Guillory remembers seven years ago when Hurricane Rita hit Southwest Louisiana as a Category 3 storm.

"We were working with a shelter from the guys that came out of New Orleans, we were working with them," he said. "We were preparing to shut that shelter down and evacuating ourselves." 

Not only was he preparing relief efforts for the victims of Hurricane Katrina which hit weeks before, he was preparing for his wedding which was just weeks away. 

"We had the house packed with decorations and flowers and different things and we had to shift gears a bit," Guillory said.  

Evacuating to Arkansas before his big day, the evacuation order was lifted just hours before the wedding. 

"Lift for people to come back in town was October the 7th so we came back on October the 7th and had our wedding on October the 8th," he said.

Lower Cameron Parish suffered the brunt of Rita's damage, serving as ground zero for the storm.  The only building to survive was the old courthouse. Now, seven years later, that community and all of the communities of southwest Louisiana are more resilient than ever. 

"How a community responds is going to be based on who the community really is," said Lake Charles Mayor, Randy Roach. "I think you can look back on those years and say that this community is a pretty special community."

While a catastrophic storm may not be something people want to remember, Roach said there is something valuable in recognizing anniversaries like this one.  

"I look back on the anniversary of Rita and it's not something that you want to celebrate and be glad it happened," he said. "I think what we're glad about and what we can be thankful for is the way in which we were able to respond."

With a "ready for anything that may come in the future," attitude as Dick Gremillion, Director of the Calcasieu Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, explained.  

"Even though we haven't had a direct hit by a hurricane ... keep their vigilance up and be prepared for anything that might happen," Gremillion said. 

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