The aftermath of Hurricane Laura continues for those in southwest Louisiana. Many are dealing with a mosquito apocalypse now, while Louisiana has been all but forgotten by the national media. Walt Handelsman, a staff editorial cartoonist for The Advocate, my local paper in Baton Rouge, shared this striking image online:
After The Advocate printed it, Walt also gave me permission to use it. The message is clear: Don’t Forget Lake Charles, Louisiana, in these dark times. It’s not just Lake Charles, but all of southwest Louisiana (SWLA) that needs help. This is a plea, a cry, from those of us in Louisiana: Please don’t forget us.
Not only has Lake Charles and southwest Louisiana been forgotten, but people and animals are struggling with the aftermath of a storm that was influenced by climate change.
Swarms of mosquitos pushed out of the southwest Louisiana marshes by Hurricane Laura are causing several issues with livestock, including "widespread" cattle deaths. https://t.co/WiPmENRO8Y
— 25NewsKXXV (@25NewsKXXV) September 10, 2020
Thick clouds of mosquitoes have been descending upon the livestock. Researches say that at least hundreds of cattle and horses have been killed in five parishes. Veterinarian Craig Fontenot from Ville Platte says that these armies of mosquitoes have been draining the animals’ blood. The animals are also becoming exhausted from constantly moving to avoid the insects.
Jeremy Hebert of LSU AgCenter spoke to several cattle owners who have lost as many as eight animals. He’d also heard of three mosquito-related deaths of horses. Fontenot, who estimated that hundreds of cattle and a few horses have already been killed in at least five parishes, noted that, “There’s a lot on the verge of dying.” He shared a photo with 4WWL of mosquitoes blanketing a bull’s belly. It’s not a pretty sight.
The Mooresville Tribune noted that since Hurricane Laura made landfall two weeks ago, these swarms have killed 300–400 cattle and horses. Fontenot, who also spoke with the Mooresville Tribune, said that the vast number of bites leave horses and cattle anemic and bleeding under their skins. The mosquitoes remain a large problem in Calcasieu and Jefferson Davis parishes even though parish officials are now spraying to kill them.
The Aftermath Continues
Good Morning World ! Please Please,Please! We need your Help , #laurahurricane Recovery/Is Like living Hell . The @WhiteHouse always over promise and under deliver .Like Katrina Volunteers from across America are essential. @LouisianaGov . @nytimes @AmericanPress @MSNBC @AC360 pic.twitter.com/NFpj4bRXlq
— Russel L. Honore' (@ltgrusselhonore) September 9, 2020
It has been two weeks since the storm hit, and the media has largely moved on. Local media outlets such as Houston’s KHOU, NOLA.com, and The Advocate‘s chain of newspapers across south Louisiana are continuing to provide coverage, and KPLC TV has been posting daily updates for the citizens of Lake Charles, but the hurricane is now considered “yesterday’s news” in the national media.
Unfortunately, there are still people without power. Here are some of updates provided by KPLC TV:
- City parks and playgrounds remain closed.
- The city’s water is back up but everyone is still under a “boil water advisory” until further notice.
- There’s a limit on traveling. Only essential workers are allowed to drive on the city streets.
- Electricity is not yet fully restored and the city has advised residents to keep their main breaker shut off.
- There’s also a parish-wide curfew from dusk until dawn. Hospitals are now operational, but with limited capacities.
There’s more that you can read here.
Interview with Choppy Guillotte
As the aftermath continues to unfold, many feel as if their cries aren’t being heard. Anyone scrolling through this Twitter timeline is stunned to see just what’s going on in Lake Charles. While doing my part on Twitter and trying to amplify the voices of those hurting, I became online friends with Choppy Guillotte, an actor based out of New Orleans who has played roles in Antebellum, The Purge, Strange Weather, and First Man. He is from Lake Charles. He shared his thoughts with me about the lack of media coverage.
He pointed out something many have been saying: Lake Charles is a small city and isn’t really a headliner when it comes to news sensations. “There isn’t a lot of ‘attention-grabbing’ drama occurring now that the hurricane has made landfall.” He pointed out. Sure, a lot of people are suffering, but the media is all about sensational headlines — it’s what drives the ratings (aka cash).
“What’s going on now, even though there is a lot of human suffering, it’s more or less isolated instances throughout the city (and surrounding areas). There isn’t one big focal point on which the MSM can focus; it’s become more of a ‘series’ of individual stories. For the media, that means a lot more work and a lot more resources needed to ‘cover’ what’s happening. And it’s also got a sort of ‘feel good’ or positive vibe (even though a lot of people are hurting), meaning it’s moved to the phase of ‘neighbor helping neighbor’ and ‘strangers helping strangers.’ There isn’t widespread unrest, the struggle and obstacles people are facing are more personal (with their homes, work, school, familial challenges), and they’re also more internal (depression, anger, feelings of loss, confusion, uncertainty),” Choppy told me in an email.
Another point he brought up was that we are just a couple months shy of a major election and thrown into that toxic mix is a pandemic that is still in “full swing.” To add fuel to that proverbial fire, the entire West Coast is on fire.
“Honestly, at this point, I think little can be done to grab the MSM’s (or Hollywood’s) attention. The ‘big moment’ has happened. I also think that Laura was sort of a ‘sleeper’ hurricane because it went from a Cat 2 to a Cat 4 in a matter of hours and then it made landfall and it was over (for the MSM) … there was almost no ‘build-up’, and unless you live in the Southeastern US, or you know someone who does, you didn’t have much time to be ‘exposed’ to it, nor did you get a chance to become really ‘invested.’ I think a huge part of the country don’t even know that Laura happened.”
That is true. One of my friends in Atlanta called me to catch up earlier today and he asked me what was new. I told him that Lake Charles had water now but the power was still out, but that Baton Rouge was unaffected. His response was along the lines of, “what are you talking about?” So I had to explain that we had a Category 4 hurricane hit just 100 miles and some change away from me. He had no idea. He’d thought it hit Texas. (One hit Texas hard earlier in the year.) Speaking of hurricanes, there are more brewing — hurricane season isn’t over.
“Fingers crossed there won’t be another major one,” Choppy said, “but remember that Rita hit three weeks after Katrina did and they were both super powerful.”
I asked Choppy to also share some thoughts about the people in Lake Charles and the surrounding area. I wanted to find a way to not only bring hope with my writing but to shine a light in the darkness with my words in hopes of letting those suffering know that we do hear them. There are many on Twitter advocating for those affected by the storm.
“I feel sort of like the mayor of Lake Charles when he said that he loves, but he also hates, social media; and, I think it’s social media (meaning everyday people) that are keeping the story (or stories) of Laura’s aftermath alive. It’s also those same people who’ve been calling out the MSM as well as celebrities. It’s you and me, those of us who know the area, have lived there, have family there, or just visited and who have an appreciation for the people, culture, food, music, landscape. We’re the real ‘social network’ and our power is strong. It’s almost like a grassroots campaign and its impacts could end up being much greater and longer-lasting. It’s become, or becoming, more personal. The story has shifted from the MSM, the primetime anchors, and newspaper coverage into the hands of the viewers, the readers, the ‘observers’ and we’re not letting it go.”
The entire southwestern region of Louisiana is “struggling and hurting but coming together and doing the work. With all odds against them, they’re spearheading and participating in the recovery effort.”
Choppy pointed out that he wasn’t discounting the hard work of the workers who are there working around the clock. He shared how he saw posts online of teams of the lineman who came from across the country — these teams are fervently working to restore power. He’s seen several posts from his friends and family sharing their personal stories, thanking the linemen, thanking their neighbors and strangers for helping.
“The city will take years to ‘come back’ (people will be without a lot of modern conveniences for days, weeks, months to come) and I’ll bet that parts of the area, like parts of Cameron Parish, will be gone forever (unless the Army Corps of Engineers can figure out how to build some kind of wall or infrastructure to withstand huge storms from the gulf. Engineering is not my forte so I’m not sure that’s even possible.)”
Choppy shared his last thought with me and it was about the pain of those suffering. “I guess what I hope is that everyone there doesn’t feel neglected or deserted. That everyone is getting the help that they need. And that the worst is behind them, though I fear that may not be the case. I also worry that there are elderly or poor who we don’t even know about, who may not survive what’s ahead, even though they survived the storm. That breaks my heart.”
It breaks mine, too, and this is why I write. We will not forget you, Lake Charles, nor you, Southwest Louisiana.
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