While many residents of Morehouse Parish were still working to recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Laura after it battered Morehouse Parish on August 27th as a Category 2 hurricane, new damage left in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Delta has made matters much worse.
Tropical Storm Delta’s center hit Northeast Louisiana around 4:00 AM on Saturday, October 10th in the northern part of Catahoula Parish with strong winds. “The strong winds were well ahead of the center of circulation” said Don Wheeler, Broadcast Meteorologist at The Radio People. “Tropical storm force winds (39 mph or higher) began across southern portions of northeast Louisiana around 9 PM Friday evening and spread northward.”
“Most of northeast Louisiana was experiencing either sustained tropical force winds or wind gusts to or above tropical storm force by 11 PM, ” Wheeler added. The storm was extensive, he noted. “Approximately 85% of the state experienced Tropical Storm Force winds or higher.” Even though winds reached high speeds measured at Monroe Regional Airport, “Sustained winds over northeast Louisiana were in the 25 to 35 mph range. Wind gusts of 45 to 50 mph likely occurred in Morehouse.”
For the citizens of Morehouse Parish, the storms represented not only a harrowing experience but also a lot of damage to property and power outages in their aftermaths. Fallen trees on homes were the main damage concern in Morehouse Parish from both Laura and Delta.
Chief Deputy and Morehouse Parish Director of Homeland Security James Mardis whose job is “to be a go between for the local governments and the State and Federal Government. I send the requests to the State who in turn send it to the Feds” said that clean-up has been and will be the biggest problem from both storms, “The biggest issue from Hurricane Laura was debris.”
That debris removal comes at a local cost for local governments. “ Morehouse Parish (this includes all the municipalities) is not flush with funds. The state encourages parishes and municipalities to have debris contracts in place with private companies, these cost money that we just don’t have. So, all these different local Governments are stuck with dealing with all the debris, plus their normal day to day functions,” Mardis said.
More recently, Tropical Storm Delta increased the difficulty. Mardis added, “After Delta hit Morehouse Parish it added more of the same issues: debris management and power outages.”
Bastrop mayor Henry Cotton addressed some of the debris issues by setting a staging area on Kammell Street in the former garment plant’s approximate 5 acre parking lot. There, debris from trees to trash can be brought. “Everything was wet. The old landfill was too wet to use for downed trees,” Cotton said. In addition to downed trees and limbs on roads and streets, outages caused by broken power lines were a grave concern. “As important as travel is, we had to get the trees off power lines. At the staging area, the majority of debris is from trees on power lines.”
Cotton has also called upon residents to document damage to property and debris on streets and roads throughout the parish. In a Facebook post on October 13, Cotton said, “We have stressed the belief that we must document our local Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Delta catastrophic damage before it is all cleared. They can't deny the fact that Bastrop deserves to receive FEMA Category A designation with Debris Removal if we present the true facts.”
The City of Bastrop has applied for Category A assistance for debris removal from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Mayor Henry Cotton is working closely with Homeland Security’s Mardis.
Mardis has begun the process for state and federal help with problems associated with the storms. “I’m currently collecting data to determine if Morehouse has reached the threshold for Federal Assistance. FEMA sets thresholds based on Population to see if they will come into a community to provide help.”
He went on to say that communications between agencies is often what slows down certain processes, “Most of the issues with any disaster concern the “Red Tape” that is required from the State and Federal Governments. The Local Governments have always done their best to make sure the citizens are getting the help they need. Luckily we don’t have to file for disaster assistance on a regular basis, so it’s a new experience for most when we have a disaster. Meeting the Thresholds is a challenge, the threshold for Morehouse Parish is $108,000, in damages to public infrastructure.”