Friday, September 30

"Look and leave" in Calcasieu


Thousands of Calcasieu Parish residents are home today to inspect their property, clean up their yards, and - officials hope - go back by day’s end to where they were staying.

At 10 a.m. today, Sept. 30, parish officials will kick off the “look-and-leave” phase of the post-hurricane Calcasieu ComeBack program.

Full electrical power isn’t expected to be restored in the area for a few weeks, and services are lacking as a result. Despite that, elected officials are still not confident that everyone who comes to look will indeed leave.

Calcasieu ComeBack was hammered out in a closed-door meeting Thursday among the parish’s six mayors and Calcasieu Parish Police Jury President Hal McMillin.

McMillin said residents who visit should not bring their children — and should keep their hotel reservations.

“We would like for them to come in and assess the situation and leave as soon as possible. When they get here they are going to see what we have been through the last few days. There is a lot of devastation. A lot of streets have been cleared. It looks a lot better,” he said.

“Electricity will continue to remain a central issue for the next 14 to 20 days," said Calcasieu Parish Administrator Mark McMurry said. "Hopefully that could be a little bit better. It could be little bit worst. There won’t be an exactness to that we can give anyone right now.”

McMurry said the date when the second phase of the plan called the “Calcasieu Comeback” will be implemented hasn’t been announced yet.

A publicity campaign aimed at those returning today for the look-and-leave visit will be conducted through brochures and with a telephone number residents can call for information, 721-3840.

Lake Charles doesn’t have potable water, but Sulphur and Westlake do.

Citizens returning to the parish must be prepared to be self-sufficient, with their own food and water, parish officials said. They also must stay off the streets at night and have access to cash, as credit card usage will be difficult. Elderly residents, children and other special-needs citizens are strongly urged not to return during the first phase, officials said.

Residents will be asked to return to their temporary lodging locations at their own discretion and wait to permanently re-enter at a later, undetermined date.

Informational checkpoints are at the Interstate 10 exits in Iowa, at Highway 171 in Lake Charles, at Enterprise Boulevard in Lake Charles, in Westlake, at La. 108 in Sulphur, at Beglis Parkway in Sulphur, at Ruth Street in Sulphur and at Exit No. 7 in Vinton.

Local officials are asking for cooperation with and observance of the following rules and statements:

  • Residents are entering the parish at their own risk.
  • There is a strictly enforced parish-wide curfew from 7 The curfew means that people cannot be outside, either on foot or in a vehicle, during this time. Make sure to carry identification at all times.
  • There is no temporary housing during the visit. Make sure to have temporary “home away from home” arrangements secured.
  • E-911 is working, but is NOT an information line.
  • Police and fire services are limited.
  • Traffic lights are not functioning. Every intersection in the parish is officially a four-way stop. An accident endangers the lives of everyone involved, as the parish's ability to respond and care for people is very limited.
  • Medical services are extremely limited during this period. The parish cannot handle critical care patients, special-needs people, or young children.
  • Conditions are inappropriate and generally unsafe for the elderly, ill, and young children. There is no elderly day care, child day care, or schools.
  • Pharmacies are not open, so make certain to bring needed medications.
  • There is no access to respirators, oxygen or ventilators.
  • Sewer, water, and electricity are generally not available. Conserve and restrict use of all of these services if they’re available. Portable toilets are not widely available.
  • Water in Lake Charles is not potable, meaning it cannot be drunk. Don’t use it to brush teeth; however, it is safe for bathing. Such water must be boiled before being used for cooking.
  • Food and water will not be provided during the visitation period. Bring enough food, water, medical supplies, medicines, and gasoline to be self-sufficient. Each incidence of a visiting resident needing assistance is going to prolong the recovery.
  • Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Do not cook inside with fuel-burning camp stoves or charcoal grills – they will kill you.
  • Gasoline for your personal vehicles is limited. A few gas stations may be open, but be prepared to pay in cash and be patient in long lines.
  • Expect roads to be barricaded for power restoration. Do not endanger the lives of the power lines crews by attempting to cross the barricade.
  • Expect road closures and major traffic congestion.
  • Be very careful on re-entering homes, especially if there are trees leaning against or on the roof. Use good judgment. Do not call for any public service assistance.
  • Garbage removal is a problem. If at all possible, bag household garbage in heavy trash bags and leave the parish with it.
  • Do not burn any trash or garbage.

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