LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Hurricane Laura disrupted the lives of everyone in Southwest Louisiana, but the storm’s power may be most evident in Cameron Parish.
While one of the least populated areas in the state, it’s home for many, and though they’ve been through these motions before, it doesn’t make recovery any easier.
“It’s different if you are looking at it from an administrative manual or a book, but when whole cities, whole parishes have to deal with this kind of destruction and work together, we learn a lot about ourselves and about our economies. And how as a region, we have to work together in order to function, during the disaster and after,” said Port Director and Cameron Parish native Clair Marceaux.
Like many others in Southwest Louisiana, she has seen the catastrophic damage of a hurricane.
“Some of the things that I’ve seen with Laura are reminiscent of Rita, but this storm is even more difficult to explain to people.”
The toll taken across Southwest Louisiana is hard to put into words. Many parts of Cameron Parish are unrecognizable, and with such an overwhelming amount of damage - what’s the first step?
“We need to understand how many vessels are lost, how many work boats, how many crew boats, how many rigs were damaged offshore and inland. We need to know how many shrimp boats sank,” said Marceaux.
A thorough assessment is now underway, not just of vessels and waterways, but of roads, bridges, homes, small businesses, miles of pipelines and industries.
“Our Cameron Parish Port has global impact," explained Marceaux, “The state of Louisiana is third among nations in the amount of liquified natural gas export and the only parish in the state that’s exporting LNG is Cameron. That makes Cameron Parish third among nations in the world.”
Once assessments are complete, assistance comes.
”Then we start the process to understand how much is going to be requested, how much is going to be approved, coming from Housing and Urban Development and every other federal agency that will provide funding," said Marceaux.
While that’s happening, she and other leaders in Cameron Parish aim to help guide people through the recovery process.
“Making sure that all of the needs that are identified – by small businesses, by individuals like you and me - are met. That means matching up the agencies like FEMA with the residents who qualify for that assistance, helping them understand the maze of applications, if they are denied what the next step is."
It’s not an easy journey no matter how many times you’ve had to face it, but Marceaux says focus on the end goal.
“When you live with this like we do, I don’t think anyone ever gets used to it, but when it happens again, we know what to expect. We know it’s going to be a long road to recovery, and that’s ok because it’s worth coming back to.”