When Hurricane Laura struck Lake Charles, Louisiana, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Mississippi Valley Division (MVD) response and recovery teams were already in place to execute the critical mission assignments assigned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Damage caused by the hurricane was worse than Rita, according to some of the locals. And as of Sept. 7, approximately 160,000 people in Louisiana are still without power. In the Calcasieu and Cameron parishes, there are 12,000 spans of downed wires and 3,000 damaged transformers.
Additionally, over 140 overhead transmission lines remain out of service, and Entergy reported that they needed to rebuild transmission lines running into Lake Charles completely.
Damages sustained in southwestern Louisiana warrant USACE expertise. Mission assignments range from temporary roofing and emergency power installation to supporting the temporary housing mission and conducting infrastructure assessments and providing debris removal technical assistance to the state.
“Just two days ago, the first of what will be thousands of temporary roofs were installed, which was done faster than ever before in terms of hurricane recovery efforts thanks to the innovative efforts and other advancements our teams have made in the last few years,” Memphis District Commander and Lead Recovery Operations Commander Col. Zachary Miller said. "As of today (Sept. 7), both contractors are on track with a ramp-up schedule and are meeting all requirements.”
The program's purpose is to provide homeowners in disaster areas with fiber-reinforced sheeting to cover damaged roofs until permanent repairs are made. Homeowners interested in applying for temporary roofing can call toll free 1-888-ROOF-BLU (1-888-766-3258) for more information regarding this program.
Additionally, USACE also has an Operation Blue Roof in-person Right-of-Entry sign-up station at the Lake Charles Civic Center. It is located alongside Veterans Memorial Blvd/N. Lakeshore Dr. You can pull into Veterans Memorial Park where there’s ample parking. Use the map and photo for reference. The application period expires Sept. 21.
Outside of temporary roofing, the Corps’ other primary mission is emergency power installation.
“Structures including water pump stations, sewage lift stations, hospitals, radio towers, corrections facilities… all these places impacted when a hurricane hits and are usually the first places to need power after the hurricane leaves,” Memphis District Program Analyst and Mission Specialist Sandra Hibbard said. “The state sends in the requests, and then the 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power) goes out to the location to conduct the assessments from which we can then determine what type of generator needs to be installed.”
As of Sept. 7, USACE contractors have completed 43 installations with nine in progress, 17 assessments are ongoing, and five total deinstalls. Deinstallations occur once power is restored, or power is not necessary at that facility anymore.
In addition to these primary missions, our response teams are also responsible for supporting both the temporary housing mission and conducting infrastructure assessments.
“We’ve completed several visual inspections of potential group site locations and commercial pads in the Lake Charles area and have a subject matter expert checking the availability of generators to supply temporary housing units where a power grid has not been re-established," Miller said of temporary housing assistance. "We’ve also conducted all 52 infrastructure assessments FEMA requested and are anticipating additional valuations for 22 more water/waste-water facilities without power.”
There are nearly 200 USACE employees from more than 30 different commands officially deployed in support of this mission, 35 of those being reach-back support and remaining back in their home district but still working 12-hour days, seven days a week.
“When called upon, we are charged with helping residents return to a normal way of life,” Maj. Gen. Diana Holland, Commanding General, MVD said. “To achieve this goal, we draw on talented professionals with unique skills and abilities from across USACE working hand in glove with local and state governments. USACE is honored to support the incredible efforts led by the state of Louisiana and the FEMA.”
As a Baton Rouge native, Miller said when arriving that he would be here until the mission was complete, and so residents of southwestern Louisiana should expect the same of the USACE recovery teams as well.
For more information regarding the recovery effort, please visit https://hurricanelaura.la.gov.