WEST MONROE, La. (KTVE/KTAL) — Gov. John Bel Edwards and members of his cabinet flew over Central and North Louisiana parishes on Friday to survey the damage caused by Hurricane Laura before meeting with local leaders on storm recovery plans.
During a news conference at the Ruston Regional Airport following the flyover, Edwards announced the state has requested a major disaster declaration from President Donald Trump for 23 parishes, including Caldwell, Jackson, Lincoln, Ouachita, and Union in Northeast Louisiana and Natchitoches, Sabine, Bienville, Claiborne, Red River in Northwest Louisiana. He expects the request to be approved soon.
Gov. Edwards said the damage from Laura is nowhere near as bad as anticipated, but that it still did significant damage all the way up to and including in North and Central Louisiana.
He said the biggest and most urgent issues many areas are now facing are lack of power and water.
The CHRISTUS Ochsner hospital in Lake Charles was evacuated after damage to the building. There were also evacuations from nursing homes and hospitals due to a lack of water after the storm knocked out 82 water systems.
Poultry producers in the Northeastern region of the state are in need of power to run fans to keep their livestock cool and make sure cold storage stays on. Commissioners are on top of making sure they have the fuel to do that.
Gov. Edwards also said that he is “optimistic” that power will be restored throughout Central and North Louisiana relatively quickly, likely in hours and days as opposed to the extended outages expected to continue in South Louisiana due to the extent of the damage there. The state had more power crews pre-positioned ahead of Hurricane Laura than ever before in Louisiana history, according to Edwards.
During the conference Gov. Edwards also touched on safety, saying that Louisiana has had 10 storm-related deaths so far. Four of those deaths were caused by trees falling onto homes during the storm, one person drowned, and five more were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning due to generators being inside an enclosed area. Gov. Edwards encourages all residents to not have a generator running inside of your home or in a poorly ventilated area.
Gov. Edwards also spoke briefly about COVID-19, saying that he is concerned because 24 more people were hospitalized on Friday. Even though the state is looking better, “the hottest region of our state in terms of positivity is Southwest Louisiana and we have tens of thousands of people all over the state taking shelter,” most of them in hotels but many with friends and family.
He also expressed concern because of testing levels dropping due to the storm, leaving the state without a clear picture of what is happening with the pandemic. Edwards also announced that COVID-19 testing sites across the state would begin again on Monday, August 31, 2020.