By Major Jerry Bell, Emergency Operations Director
During the week of Sept. 14-18, our city officials to include the Emergency Manager, Major Jerry Bell, our Chief of Police Casey Whitehead, our Director of Public Works, Eddy Dahlquist, Sewer Supervisor Hank Frazier and two consultant experts on damage assessment, conducted a very preliminary damage assessment caused by Hurricane Laura.
This intimal preliminary damage assessment had to be done in order to brief the FEMA person assigned to help coordinate the real damage assessment to be done by FEMA officials at a later date. This initial assessment was to let FEMA know that DeQuincy had suffered some real damage that had to be mitigated in order to get our city back to a normal state. The damage that I am reporting to our citizens in this article is not all inclusive and everyday more damage is uncovered as the debris is picked up. Also this damage assessment just includes city property and not the millions of damage suffered by our citizens.
There were major damages to our City Hall, City Works department buildings, the Fire Department, Police Department, and all our City Parks. The museum, a historic building suffered severe damage. Our airport was hit hard to include the hangers, and the terminal. The sewer plant was damaged severely but is still going under the watchful eye of Hank Frazier. All our generators were partially burnt out due to the long hours of over use. Our roads, bridges, and other infrastructure was damaged. Most of our signage was missing or damaged. Our city lights took a hit. Our concrete damaged canals were full of downed trees. Some of our roads were damaged by falling timbers and some of the roads had craters in them. Numerous police vehicles had damage due to metal flying through the air. The old town jail and city hall were damaged. Everyday more damage is uncovered. Hurricane Laura’s damage is way more extensive that the damage caused by Hurricane Rita.
However, not all is gloom. FEMA is on board and in one conference, the man responsible for mitigating our damage and getting DeQuincy funded to rebuild, commented that he was going to do all that he could to help our city. The Mayor has met with several high ranking FEMA officials in his office and they all agreed that this was one of the worst storms to ever make landfall and that DeQuincy suffered greatly because of Hurricane Laura.
The Mobile Registration Intake Center (MRIC) is on the ground and is working out of the DMV office registering our citizens. Don’t give up if you have been denied, this just means most of the time that you need additional informa- tion. FEMA did suspend operations on Monday, Sept. 21, due to the uncertainty of the new storm coming in but they will resume shortly. DeQuincy overcame Hurricane Rita and we will overcome Hurricane Laura because we are God fearing and strong.
On Thursday, Sept. 24, there is an important damage scoping meeting that will be held via conference call in the Mayor’s office. This meeting normally would be held in person on the ground however because of the Covid-19 and FEMA regulations, these meeting are held virtually. Because of this, DeQuincy officials have coordinated for all the damage to be photographed and the use of a drone will get us a great overhead view of the real damage. This decision was made early to photograph all the damage before all is picked up. More trucks will shortly be coming in to help pick up the debris. These trucks will make several passes and will be on the ground until all the debris is picked up. Make sure that your debris is separated so that the trucks will pick it up. Also the debris has to be moved to where the trucks can pick them up.
The Mayor had donated his office for our mitigation team to work out of. As in all dealings with federal organizations, it comes down to one big issue, paperwork. It has to be done and done correctly or there will be no funding. The Mayor has hired a person to help with our paperwork. Everything had to work off a project worksheet and it has to be done. FEMA will fund DeQuincy as long as we do the proper forms and get them in when due. Our Disaster number is DR 4559. Soon there will be many more disasters forthcoming. It is up to our officials and our legislators to not let the government forget DeQuincy.
The Mayor has reached out to Senator John Kennedy and hopefully we can stay on his radar. DeQuincy’s share of this burden will be great, however, we are hopefully praying that the federal government will help pick up most of the tab. All our city officials are working as hard as they can to do what has to be done to help our citizens. Let’s all work together to get our city back to normal as soon as we can.
May God bless our city and its people.