LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - As the mandatory hurricane evacuation order is lifted and people return home, many in North Lake Charles are coming back to find their properties, apartments, and businesses in ruin.
Christopher Noah Chretien lives on North Prater Street and says it was horrible to see what the storm had done to the homes in his community.
“When I made it back here to the city, a lot of folks was just kind of viewing their homes and stuff like that," Chretien said. "It was sort of sad because a lot of the people in this area are older and they were pretty devastated to see what was going on. Rooftops missing. A lot of the memories they had is gone or gonna change for them.”
But it was also people’s livelihoods that have been affected.
“Businesses? They were really tore up. Like Twins up the road. I talked to him the other day and he told me that this was it for him.”
Paul H. Guidry is the owner of Twins Auto Repair. Why is it called that?
“The reason it was called Twins was because I had an identical twin brother and a lot of people called us Twin. I’ve been in business since 1977 -forty-three years.”
When Guidry returned, he knew things would be bad, but he wasn’t expecting this.
“On my way over here I saw the destruction, so I knew mine had to have some damage. But this? This isn’t damage. I felt like a hydrogen bomb had been dropped. And its unbelievable that things could happen like this.”
He says he wouldn’t be surprised if some left and found other places to live.
“A lot of people aren’t gonna come back because they got nothing to come back to. And the assistance they’re giving us isn’t that much, so what can they do? It’s just devastating no matter what way you look at it. When Rita hit it wasn’t as bad as this. People fought and got back together. But then again, they were working. Right now you’ve got a lot of people, due to the corona, they’re not working.”
“The angel of death is finally upon us. That’s what’s happened. ”
Near the Calcasieu River we spoke to Marshal Simien Jr., local lawyer, former city councilman, and former Police Juror for Lake Charles' 4th District.
“We’re in the northern part of Lake Charles, right off of Fitzenreiter Road. I’ve got my home here. The Calcasieu River is here, the Goosport Recreation Center, the Combre-Fondel Elementary School, Martin Luther King Center is right here. This place is a whole lot different than it looked about a week ago.”
Around him the once tall trees are bare, many toppled to the ground because of Laura’s strong winds.
“We had trees everywhere and most of the trees back here are 150 to 200 years old. So if even one tree falls, each of its branches are like trees. So it was pretty bad, you couldn’t see anything.”
Marshal pointed to a house behind him with a massive hole in the roof, “as you can see one of the big trees, the top snapped off and the wind blew the top onto this house over here. We’ve got that taken off. We used to have a forest over here. Now it looks like a weed eater went through it.”
He says things have been rough getting help for the people that have nowhere else to go, “It was slow getting some type of services to help support the people that was still left here. SWLA Health Center became a major staging area and they’ve been really feeding and taking care of people, providing cleaning supplies and things like that.”
But what’s also concerning him is the housing situation that they are now facing.
“The businesses took a lot of hits, I mean there’s a lot of businesses, a lot of homes, a lot of people are renters, so there’s a lot of people that have been displaced. The power still isn’t on here, but they lifted the hurricane evacuation order, which I’m trying to figure out how that’s gonna work because now the people aren’t getting housing anymore. They can’t come back here to these houses because the mold has taken over. And there’s no telling what else is going on until the power comes back.”
Marshal hopes that people will still return to their homes and community to make repairs and continue to live there, but he knows it’s a hard road ahead.
“There’s still people here. I know a lot of people have registered their kids to go to school wherever they’re located now so it remains to be seen if they’re gonna come back. I think they will. But a lot of people lost homes, lost everything. And that’s gonna be a little harder. I want to ask the people to be patient and to keep their hope up.”
When it comes to recovery, Marshal knows things are going to be different than they were the last time a hurricane blew through our area.
“We had the benefit during Rita of having Katrina happen a month earlier so the whole eyes of the world were upon us. And so we weren’t gonna be forgotten. This one here, once the people from the Weather Channel left, you don’t hear anything about Laura anymore. So we’ve been left on our own and it’s up to us, the people of Southwest Louisiana, to rebuild Southwest Louisiana. Because this is our home.”
Back at the Twins, Paul Guidry, says he won’t be trying to start Twins back up again, “I’m gonna sit here and tie it down and put the property up for sale. Because at my age, 77, I’m gonna try to enjoy the rest of the days I’ve got left.”
But, amid all the destruction caused by Hurricane Laura, Christopher Chretien still has something to look forward to:
“The last time we had a storm, the Saints came back and won the Superbowl. So I’m hoping we start up and do the same thing. Give us a storm and we win us a Superbowl. Go Saints!”