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Dealing with the Debris: Lake Charles residents still dealing with storm damage nine months later

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 10:56 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It has been nine months since hurricanes Laura and Delta made landfall in Southwest Louisiana, causing mass destruction to the region. With the start of hurricane season coming up, many residents are not ready to face another storm as they continue to rebuild.

In the middle of all the destruction, there are stories of recovery.

As you drive around Lake Charles, some things remain untouched since the storms: trees snapped, street signs bent, homes with work yet to begin. But one thing is noticeable cleaner-- the streets.

Lake Charles city officials say crews picked up more than four million cubic yards of debris following hurricanes Laura and Delta. To put that into perspective, that amount could fill nearly 200 football fields.

But piles of debris are still found throughout the area, like in front of Natalie Sookdial’s home-- a home she and her husband purchased just eight months before Hurricane Laura’s landfall.

“The contractor didn’t cover or tarp the roof correctly. Our roof is still unfinished and so these fell um with the recent rain over just the last couple of weeks,” she said, as her home is yet to be repaired. “The damage came in through the back patio and in throughout the attic into several places of the house- my daughters’ bedroom, the office, or playroom.”

At first, the family of five lived in a camper in the driveway. Quickly running out of room, they moved into a rental property they own in the city. She said they used money from insurance and personal savings for the contractor work.

“Some work has been done. Some concrete work was done, some framing work was done, but we’re in an even worse situation now because of the work that was not finished by the contractor,” said Sookdial.

On almost every street in Lake Charles, homes still have blue rooftops. On nearly every corner, there are signs advertising for contractors. The faint smell of sawdust fills the air as residents rebuild.

“Two closets had to be totally gutted just from immense water,” said Portia Metoyer as she walks through the shell of her home of 20 years. Work has yet to begin.

“And things are gonna start you know for a while there. We thought we were moving along with work just to gut the house and then we discovered that we still have water coming in where it wasn’t even recognized before,” she said.

Like many others in the region, Metoyer is playing a waiting game.

“We have kids, we have extended family. We have a one-bedroom apartment.”

And as hurricane season nears, she hopes storms stay away.

“Every day I just pray I’m guided where I need to be with the people I need to talk to to make something happen and to make it whole again,” said Metoyer.

A little further north in the small community of Moss Bluff, there is some progress. Erin Davison said windows for her home ordered in December 2020, just arrived two weeks before the start of hurricane season. She said the big hold-up came from waiting on insurance money.

“Just those little things that are very frustrating that you have to consistently stay on when you’re like ‘oh my God just fix my house’,” said Davison. “What voice do I have because the insurance has all the power, the adjusters have the power. And it’s sad.”

For now, she and her husband-- and the dogs-- live in a camper in the backyard until their house becomes a home again.

“It’s challenging to keep a positive mental fortitude especially whenever you’re like okay now we’ve got hurricane season starting again,” she said. “So we’ve been patient with the timeline because we know we’re not the only ones that need it.”

Moving forward-- it’s become a theme here in Southwest Louisiana. The people aren’t waiting for national media attention. They aren’t waiting for federal government aid. They are taking matters into their own hands-- pushing through with grit and determination to rebuild stronger and better than before.

Hundreds of severely damaged homes and businesses across SWLA have yet to make any progress and recovery.

Hurricane Delta’s landfall about a month after Hurricane Laura’s landfall, the freeze in February, and recent flooding have not helped.

The city of Lake Charles is making a final pass for debris this week all ahead of the June first start to hurricane season.

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