Hurricane update–progress made

By Major Jerry Bell, Emergency Manager

There is some good news to report on our Hurricane Update. We have entered the last part of phase II which means site inspections have begun.

On Monday, Nov. 16, FEMA personnel arrived in DeQuincy to begin conducting site inspections of all our damaged properties. Eddy Dahlquist met the FEMA inspectors at the City Barn to begin their initial damage assessments on the ground. From there, the FEMA inspectors went to our City Hall, Fire Department, Museum, and Playground.

On Tuesday, Nov. 17, the inspectors arrived again in DeQuincy to inspect our other damaged buildings to include our Railroad Museum, Old Town Hall, Police Department, and other damaged areas. So far DeQuincy is right on track with the FEMA guidelines pertaining to getting things documented in a timely manner. Our FEMA team briefed Mayor Riley Smith on a weekly progress report which summarized our expected timelines and deliverables.

Debris Removal

Debris removal will continue and project worksheets are being developed weekly. This process involves gathering all supporting documentation for proof of ownership of the City and responsibility of property. Debris removal has slowed down somewhat as more of our citizens are returning to their homes and more debris is being pushed to the roadside. A memo was sent to Calcasieu Parish that is being reviewed and we are working with the debris removal and monitoring contractors to get some clarification on whether or not FEMA is going to allow for the removal of commercial properties and private roads. As we get additional information on this matter, we will make the announcements and their guidelines.

We are still working with our Department heads to identify all damages and costs within their facilities. As more debris is continually removed, we are finding more damages that must be reported. The Departments that are ongoing are the Sewer, Gas, and Roads. Damages recently added to the Grants Portal are the City Pound and the Grand Avenue Gym. FEMA will schedule site visits to assess the damages to all our facilities and systems as well as buildings and parks. This will begin the process of cost estimates and will dictate a baseline for total damages. Mayor Smith meets regularly with our Damage Team and has stated that we want to mitigate our damaged areas so that they will be stronger for future storms. Mayor Smith has also directed the team to be thorough in reporting all damages.

Collecting all the debris plays a major role in bringing our city back to normal. Our citizens need their roads clean and the Mayor has stated that all the debris will be picked up before the trucks will be allowed to leave. Thus far the trucks have picked up 102,605.40 total cubic yards. The total estimated cubic yards remaining is around 9,304.60 cubic yards. However the estimated cubic yards of vegetative debris will more than likely exceed the original estimated amounts. Debris removal will continue, and construction debris and demolition are on-going. City crews are working on demolition of the large box hangar at the airpark that received 100% damage.

Request for Extension

A request for an extension has been sent to FEMA on behalf of DeQuincy for an extra 60 days for damage identification. This will give our team time to locate and identify other damaged properties that may have been overlooked or found out about after debris removal, such as damaged roads, trees on gas meters and other damages.

Temporary roofs have been installed to date on several buildings and additional damages were received because of Hurricane Delta. The municipal roofs that have sustained damage and water intrusion are as follows: Old City Hall Museum, Railroad Museum, City Hall, Grand Avenue Gym, Police Department, and the Ball Park Concession Stand. These are mitigation activities and our Mayor hopes to make these properties even stronger for future storms.

There is so much more to be done and tons of paperwork to complete but DeQuincy has a good team and we will get the job done. It is so hard to be patient and we as Americans want things to get done fast. That is a normal reaction, and our team is working hard every day to bring DeQuincy back to normal. This is a long process and our team will do everything possible to help us get back to normalcy.

Requests for Housing

Our team often gets calls and requests for housing. We can only refer them mostly to FEMA for housing. Mayor Smith has made it a priority to try and get housing for our displaced citizens. Every time that he or Chief Casey Whitehead meet with FEMA officials, housing is brought up. We want our citizens to be able to stay in DeQuincy and send their children to our great schools. We all need to pray that FEMA can come through with housing for our people. It is so sad when we hear of someone that does not have a house to live in. Our FEMA mobile teams who were here so several weeks have left but are still available online or with a phone call. If you have questions, please call FEMA and ask for help. The FEMA people that I work with want to do all they can to help our citizens as many of them went through Katrina and other hurricanes themselves.

Be safe and wise.