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Three months after Hurricane Laura SOWELA construction moves forward

Published: Dec. 9, 2020 at 9:01 PM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - SOWELA Technical Community College continues to rebuild after much of their campus was damaged by the back-to-back hurricanes.

Just a month after Hurricane Laura the campus was consumed by debris and other signs of destruction.

“If you visited the campus right after the storms many people would look and say wow it’s going to be years before this place is rebuilt,” Chancellor Dr. Neil Aspinwall said.

The cleanup and rebuilding process at SOWELA has come a long way. Now over three months since the storm much of the debris is gone and construction is in full swing.

“The workmen are everywhere; they’re like bees, they’re ants all over the campus,” he said. “They’re repairing the buildings; these first six buildings we’re actually using already so you know if you recall we brought many of our students in particular programs back the first of November.”

The first phase of construction includes six of the thirteen buildings on campus. Work on that began two weeks ago. Aspinwall said so far they’ve brought 700 to 800 students back to campus.

“I would say the majority of our students faculty and staff after Phase 2 is completed can come back because really what that means is everything is open with the exception of the arts and humanities building,” he said.

The arts and humanities building is part of the third and final phase of construction. It’s the one buildings on campus that is considered a total loss.

“The first floor slabs, the second floor slabs, and what we call the structural steel is still in good shape so it doesn’t have to be removed,” he said. “But everything else in the building, they call it a selective demolition; they’ll go in and begin to remove the inside you know all the walls, the drywall, everything in the building.”

The demolition of that building will begin before the end of December. As contractors rebuild they will redesign it to better sustain hurricane wind speeds of 150 miles per hour.

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