‘Rough’ and ’emotional’: Lake Charles news team discusses reporting on hometown devastation
“This is going to bring our city together.”
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - It’s been one week since the historic Category 4 Hurricane Laura leveled southwest Louisiana. The KPLC news team evacuated their station in Lake Charles before the storm made landfall in Cameron Parish on Aug. 27. They have been reporting on the devastation in their hometown ever since.
In the days and hours leading up to landfall, meteorologist Ben Terry and the KPLC weather team was tasked with the important job of informing the people of his community that a catastrophe was brewing in the Gulf of Mexico.
“As a meteorologist, knowing what was coming and feeling helpless because you can’t do anything to stop it. For me, that was probably the most difficult part,” Terry said. “The effects of what we saw were actually greater than I expected, but just feeling like you can’t do anything about it, you know?”
The morning of landfall, they were broadcasting live from the WAFB-TV newsroom in Baton Rouge.
“It’s been rough, not gonna lie, these last few days have been very emotional,” KPLC reporter Shelby Trahan said in an interview with WAFB’s Lauren Westbrook and Matt Williams one week after the storm damaged thousands of buildings and left entire parishes without power or running water.
“Seeing the damage and seeing a place that I’ve called home for so long... it’s been rough,” she said. “But I know there are more people going through it even tougher than we are.”
Once the sun rose, pictures and videos of the damage began pouring in.
Terry’s home was among the countless destroyed.
“I’ve lived in Lake Charles now for almost 10 years,” Terry said on 9News This Morning. “I’ve gotten attached to the city and the people there, some of the strongest people anywhere in Louisiana.”
“This is going to bring our city together like it’s never seen before,” he continued.
KPLC has been streaming on Facebook after its television broadcast tower buckled in Hurricane Laura’s 130 mph winds.
Trahan says while monitoring the comments on their Facebook streams, she’s noticed a common trend; everybody wants to get back home and start the recovery process.
“That is such a testament of the Louisiana people and southwest Louisiana residents,” she said. “We’re cleaning up faster than we were in Hurricane Rita, and I think it’s because we have those people that just want to get their community back to normal as soon as possible.”
The outpouring of support has stretched to the corners of the country. Terry said he’s seen license plates from as far as North Dakota in line to donate necessary supplies to the people who rode out the storm or are returning to find everything gone.
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“It’s going to be rough for a little while longer,” Terry said. “We’re getting some small victories though, like water services finally returning to the city. That’s been a big, big problem for people.”
“They just want to take even a cold shower at this point.”
In a statement released on Wednesday, Sept. 2, Entergy said crews are on the ground doing the best they can to restore power. Authorities say over 3,000 transformers were damaged and over 300 miles of power cables are in need of repair.
Governor John Bel Edwards said during a news conference Tuesday, Sept. 1 he anticipated Calcasieu Parish, the parish in which Lake Charles is located, to be without power for up to three weeks.
“It’s just going to take time and I think we all realize that,” Terry said. “We’re not expecting the power to come back on tomorrow.”
“We can’t thank you enough for your strength and the help that you’re bringing to everybody in Louisiana, it’s inspiring,” Williams said.
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