BY IAN LEI, MARTA LEIRA and SOPHIE LEWIS SEPT. 12, 2020
What should I know?
- Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds, made landfall in southwest Louisiana on Aug. 27.1
- More than 1.5 million people in Texas and Louisiana were ordered to evacuate before the hurricane hit, with COVID-19 creating further difficulties.
- 26 deaths have been reported and damage costs in Louisiana have been estimated to be $8-12 billion.5
- There are concerns that coverage of the hurricane and its aftermath are going unnoticed by the rest of the country because of multiple stories competing for national attention.7
Just how bad is this?
- The damage caused by the storm was devastating, but it could have been worse.
- The storm avoided the densely populated areas of Houston and New Orleans.
- Lake Charles, Louisiana, is suffering from a chemical fire that broke out hours after Hurricane Laura hit the area. Firefighters struggled to respond to the blaze due to the wreckage and debris caused by the storm.10
- The hurricane has disrupted Louisiana’s COVID-19 response, as testing sites have closed, especially in southwest Louisiana.
- While Louisiana previously averaged 20,000 tests each day at the beginning of August, the daily average has now decreased to 15,000.12
- Although many schools and colleges have had to shut down because of the hurricane,13 some school districts have yet to reopen for the fall.14
What are the larger implications?
- Lower-income communities are more susceptible to negative impacts from both Hurricane Laura and COVID-19, and may face more difficulties recovering.
- Many U.S. coastal communities have poverty rates well above the national average of 11.8%; those in poverty may be less likely to have access to a vehicle, hindering efficient evacuation.
- Experts predict Hurricane Laura to be one of many amidst an “extremely active” hurricane season.16
- On August 6, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center released its annual Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook August Update, citing an increased likelihood of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season.17
- The NOAA has increased the likelihood of an above-average hurricane season to 85% and projects stronger and longer-lasting storms as a result.
In a Quote:
“My first year as a teacher got trampled by the pandemic, then the hurricane season coming in, two hurricanes coming, right when school’s about to begin. I’m numb to everything, honestly. Just waiting to ride it out and hopefully not have as much damage, because that means I have to pay for a bunch of things where I don’t have the money to do so. It’s overwhelming.”
—Erin Washington, third grade teacher at Brentwood Elementary School in Lake Charles, LA, via Education Week blog.20