Hurricane Laura update

By Major Jerry Bell, Emergency Operations Manager

We are now into week five of this Hurricane; much has been done but there is so much more to be done. The Mayor’s team continues to meet virtually with FEMA and other organizations to help assist in our recovery. The main meeting was held at 1 p.m. on Sept. 24. This was called a scoping meeting with FEMA to outline to them all our preliminary damage assessments that the city has done.

At this meeting the Mayor along with his team presented to the FEMA official assigned as our Preliminary Damage Manager (PDMG) our very rough draft of our damage to the city in regards to city property. This was a very good first start and puts DeQuincy ahead of the game as far as FEMA is concerned.

At this meeting, the FEMA official wanted to gain information about our estimated cost of assistance, our Insurance coverage, other Federal programs that might assist us, the localized impact that this Hurricane had on our community, our hazard mitigation, and any recent disasters that we might have occurred. This information was given to the FEMA official and he stated that he would help us in every way possible to assist in getting funding for recovery.

Categories of Work

In FEMA there is a grouping structure that is illustrated in different type categories of work. They are as follows. The first is emergency work which is category A: Debris removal; and B: Emergency Protective Measures;. The Permanent work is C: Roads and Bridges; D: Water control Facilities; E: Buildings and Equipment; F: Utilities and G: Parks, Recreation and other.

Now we are concentrating in the first two categories, A: Debris removal and B: Emergency Protective Measures. DeQuincy has damage in all those categories that needs immediate attention. DeQuincy has contracted a company to remove all the debris.

The government will pay for some of this and DeQuincy has to pay the rest. The debris company has been on the ground for about 12 days and they have already removed about 40% estimated of the thousands of cubic yards of debris left to be removed.

The company has about 16 units in town, they can bring more but they would just be stacked up at the dumping points. Mayor Riley Smith has meet with the supervisor of the debris clean-up and he has assured our Mayor that he will not leave town until all the debris is picked up, even the stumps.

The vegetation will be picked up first and then the construction debris will be picked up. Many people have called and complained why the trucks have passed their streets and have not picked up everything. Some reasons might be that the debris is mixed, low hanging wires, or other reasons. Our director of public works has met with the debris supervisor and told him that he wanted whole streets to be picked up before moving to the next street. This can be done.

Mayor Smith wants all the citizens to know that you will get your debris picked up. Push it out to where the trucks can get it or have someone help you do this so we can get all the debris. The mayor realizes that it is hard to be patient when all this is going on and there is so much damage. So now the city is working in Category A and Category B, which is Emergency Protective Measures.

Chief Casey Whitehead wants the public to know that we are still in an emergency situation. We are still under curfew, not all communications are up, the hospital is not to full capacity, and there are many empty homes that needs protecting. This was all explained to the FEMA PDMG. Working in an emergency situation is hard upon a city because of extra cost with overtime and other expenses; so our Mayor has asked FEMA to expedite some payments to us to cover our preliminary cost to be hopefully reimbursed by FEMA at a later date.

At 11 a.m. on Sept. 28, our Mayor and other officials are meeting with Senator Bill Cassidy to brief him on the extensive damage that Hurricane Laura has brought upon DeQuincy. Hopefully the Senator will take this information back to President Trump and get us some financial aid forthcoming.

Housing Concerns

Another concern that Mayor Smith has in dealing with this disaster is housing for displaced citizens. This topic is being brought up every time that the Mayor meets with any FEMA official. This is also hard on FEMA to figure out what is the best path forward to put people in housing. Presently FEMA is paying for hotel rooms in Louisiana and Texas for some of our citizens but this is a short time fix. Hope to have more information on this topic next week.

Mayor Smith has also contacted FEMA and got it approved for the MRIC to stay in DeQuincy for another week. I encourage those who have not registered to do so at the Police department this coming week. Thus far over 2,400 citizens have registered from this area.

The Mayor knows that many people are frustrated and rightfully so but he wants our people to know that his team is working hard every day, some for over 30 days without a break to help DeQuincy recover. We must deal with FEMA and we must follow their guidelines which means hours and hours of paperwork. We will do the paperwork and they will help us.

Let’s continue praying for our citizens that need our help and also help your neighbor with their debris. We are all in this together to make our city strong again.

May God continue to bless out city.