LAKE CHARLES, La. (KTVE/KARD) – In the wake of Hurricane Laura, the governor deployed the national guard to help with relief efforts.
The Louisiana National Guard’s (LANG) 159th Civil Engineering Squadron was sent to Lake Charles to assist with debris removal in the hardest hit areas around Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana.
“We have all kinds of random debris clearing tools,” said Master Sgt. Gary Lipkos, heavy equipment non-commissioned officer. “I’ve got 10 personnel with me and seven chainsaws. I have two skid-steers with grapple hook attachments, support lift attachments, some multi-purpose bucket attachments and sweeper attachments capable of clearing debris off of roads.”
Most of their tasks have been clearing road to allow people access to their homes to assess the damages. Many homes have structural damage caused by fallen trees and downed power poles, and other homes have completely collapsed.
Additionally, the LANG teams have cleared parking lots at businesses and government offices for use as command posts for government officials or lodging and relief supply distribution for crews working in the area.
“This morning we’re here at the Calcasieu Parish government campus clearing debris away from them so they can set their tent city or their mobile command center out here on their city streets.” Lipkos said.
Some guardsmen have compared the level of damage and destruction to what they experienced after Hurricane Katrina impacted New Orleans and the surrounding parishes 15 years ago.
“It kind of looks like Katrina because people have trees in front of their houses … or they have trees on top of their houses,” Barnes said. “So, it kind of motivates you, knowing how bad Katrina was, to help the people of Lake Charles.”
Many team members vividly recall Katrina and the aftermath of the storm. Those memories have inspired the team to work diligently and expeditiously so residents of the Lake Charles community can return home safely.
“It feels good to be able to help these people,” Barnes said. “I know how it feels to be without your home for a while and be displaced because of a natural disaster.”