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Screenshot of a twitter video of the chemical fire.

Air Quality

Hurricanes & Chemical Plants Are A Toxic Mix

I shouldn’t have to explain why hurricanes and chemical plants don’t mix that well, for obvious reasons, but the unfortunate thing is that these types of plants are numerous along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. In Louisiana, we have what is nicknamed “cancer alley” because of all the pollution these plants produce.

I shouldn’t have to explain why hurricanes and chemical plants don’t mix that well, for obvious reasons, but the unfortunate thing is that these types of plants are numerous along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. In Louisiana, we have what is nicknamed “cancer alley” because of all the pollution these plants produce. 

Last night and today, Hurricane Laura hit my state as a category 4 hurricane. Just two days ago, we were preparing for two category 1 storms. Marco fizzled out while Laura went from a tropical storm to a Cat 4, with wind speeds blowing at just 7 miles per hour shy of Cat 5 strength. 

I’ve been through a few Cat 1 storms and dodged a few bullets with Hurricane Harvey and others, but Laura is my first time experiencing anything larger than a Cat 1. Luckily, I’m in a city that isn’t in the direct path of the storm — we just caught the wind and some rain. 

Here in Baton Rouge, we had gusts of up to 41 miles an hour. We were lucky. Lake Charles and the coastal area where the storm made landfall weren’t. In fact, there’s a chemical plant near Sulphur, LA, that is now on fire. Our governor, John Bel Edwards, took to Twitter to warn people in the area to take shelter and turn off their A/C units.

Climate Change Is A Major Factor

Just yesterday the storm was a mere Cat 1. However, the National Hurricane Center was warning us that it could become a Cat 4. The reason why was because the waters of the Gulf of Mexico were so warm. That sped up the intensity of the storm quickly, something climate scientists have been warning about for decades. The eyewall is so well intact that it is still a hurricane as it makes its way up to my hometown, Shreveport, which has gotten its first-ever hurricane warning. In fact, this post below should show you just how truly unprepared my hometown is for a major hurricane.

When a hurricane leaves the ocean, it begins to get weaker until it dies out. The warm water is what fuels the storm. As I write this now, Laura has finally weakened to a Cat 1 as it moves closer to Shreveport. The storm has been on land for almost 12 hours and is just now weakening.

In my tweet above, I noted that the entire storm covered almost all of my state. Hurricane Katrina, a storm that was a Cat 5 and killed around 1,200 people, left its mark on New Orleans but was just a bit smaller than Laura, a Cat 4 storm. The buoy readings in the Gulf that measured both of the storms showed that Katrina’s winds and waves just before landfall were weaker than Laura’s.

In 2008, the Union of Concerned Scientists warned us that “increasingly destructive hurricanes are putting a growing number of people and structures at risk.” They also pointed out that then-recent research showed that there was an increase in intense hurricane activity in the North Atlantic since the 1970s. Their article was updated in 2019 to include new data.

They noted that in the future, there are more likely to be more intense hurricanes that carry higher wind speeds and more rain — and this is due to global warming, which is causing climate change. These trends are “likely to be exacerbated by sea-level rise and a growing population along coastlines.”

Some of the new research estimated that as the Earth has warmed, the probability of a storm with precipitation levels like Hurricane Harvey’s was higher in Texas in 2017 than it was at the end of the 20th century. “Because of climate change, such a storm evolved from a once in every 100 years event to a once in every 16 years event over this time period.”

Hurricanes, Chemical Plants, And Refineries

Chemical plants and oil refineries produce fossil-fuel products. And when they catch on fire, not only does typical smoke from the fire harm those nearby, but when you add the chemicals that are used into this deadly mix — and the strong hurricane winds that are still blowing across our area, we have a really big problem.

https://twitter.com/SVNewsAlerts/status/1299016223372595200

As I write this, the wind is gusting here in Baton Rouge to the point that we are in another tornado watch that expires 4 hours from now. Lake Charles is still under a tropical storm warning even though the storm has moved north — it’s a large storm covering almost our entire state. The winds are blowing around 10–20 mph, with gusts of up to 25 mph there. This alert is active for the next 6 hours, which is plenty of time for the winds to disperse those chemicals from the fire into the air.

How You Can Help Those Affected By Laura

Many of my friends in the Tesla community called me and reached out to me to let me know that if I needed anything, they would help. I am fine. However, many are not. Many across the nation are concerned for those who have been impacted, so I wanted to share how you can help.

If You Want To Donate Funds

The Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana has set up a fund for Hurricane Laura relief and recovery and are desperately in need of donations. This 501(c)(3) nonprofit is raising the money to help those who are affected to recover from the disaster.

“The contributions we receive will be granted to nonprofits that have proven they don’t flinch when catastrophe comes. At the start, our disaster grants pay for food, shelter, medicine, and all the other necessities that help stabilize those in most immediate need. Then we shift to making grants for long-term recovery and, perhaps more importantly, for making people and places more resilient for the next time disaster visits,” the NPO wrote on its donation page.”

Donating Supplies

The Cajun Navy, which is well known for its beginnings as a group of Cajun boat owners who rescued people from rooftops during hurricane Katrina, is now a nonprofit organization that provides relief. It is accepting donations of funds and supplies as well as volunteers.

Help out if you can.

And remember: one of the best ways we can help prevent such disasters in the future is by switching to clean technologies — clean energy and electric vehicles.

 
 
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Written By

Johnna Crider is a Louisiana native who likes crawfish, gems, minerals, EVs, and advocates for sustainability. Johnna is also the host of GettingStoned.online, a jewelry artisan and a $TSLA shareholder.

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