Hope After Disaster

By | November 30, 2020

LAKE CHARLES, La. — Betty Jefferson’s life took a turn for the worse after two hurricanes took everything away from her.

“What I wasn’t prepared for was when I unlocked the door and pushed it open and all I could think about was ‘Uh-uh.’ My house was clean when I left because the ceiling was down throughout the whole house,” Jefferson said. “It was really really disturbing to walk in and see the damage on the inside because the outside wasn’t showing you very much.”

Lake Charles, a city of about 78,000 people, suffered significant damage after Hurricane Laura struck on Aug. 27, leaving thousands of people homeless or with severely damaged homes and many without jobs.

“You always leave with the intention that you’re coming back and that everything is just going to be okay, is going to be normal,” she said. “There is going to be damage but you’re going to be okay.”

However, she said her hope was lost when she came back home from Baton Rouge and noticed all the destruction in her house.

“The hardest thing probably was looking at my daughters’ faces when I came in,” Betty said. “They came in and they walked down the hallway and they were already in tears.”

Hurricane Laura is considered one of the strongest hurricanes to have hit Louisiana in over 150 years and the fifth-strongest hurricane to have hit the United States in modern history.

But Laura was not the only hurricane to hit Southwest Louisiana this hurricane season. On Oct. 10, six weeks later, Hurricane Delta slammed the city once again.

The hardest thing probably was looking at my daughters’ faces when I came in,” Betty said. “They came in and they walked down the hallway and they were already in tears.

However, this hurricane was a little different. Delta brought more rain, while Laura’s winds were so destructive. The torrential rains compounded the problems in Lake Charles, flooding already damaged homes and buildings.

Photo Courtesy: Samaritan's Purse
Photo Courtesy: Samaritan’s Purse

Samaritan’s Purse, a faith-based humanitarian aid agency, helped Betty get back on her feet and removed the moldy carpet and ruined drywall from her home.

Chandler Saylors, assistant manager of Samaritan Purse’s Louisiana Hurricane Response, said the mold needs to be removed as quickly as possible to prevent it from spreading.

Photo Courtesy: Samaritan's Purse
Photo Courtesy: Samaritan’s Purse

“A lot of roofs here have been damaged by the storm and the winds,” Saylors said. “So as rainwater came in, it impacted the ceiling insulation. And when those ceilings fall in, it just allows rain to get into the rest of the home, causing everything to be moldy and damaged.”

But this organization has not only helped Betty recover her house. It has served over 730 families and individuals across Louisiana.

According to Saylors, it still has over 4,000 requests from families impacted by Hurricane Laura. She said they are open and ready for all volunteers.

Photo Courtesy: Betty Jefferson
Photo Courtesy: Betty Jefferson

“In times of disaster, people are feeling devastated. They’re looking for hope. They’re looking for something to cling to. Our volunteers want to go out and share with them what it is that they can cling to in times like this when they face these moments,” Saylors said. “So for us to get to serve people like Betty, it fills us with joy and with purpose.”

According to the property data analysis firm Corelogic, due to these natural disasters, the region sustained at least $12 billion in both residential and commercial damage.

Despite all of their struggles, Betty and the southwest Louisiana community still look for the good amongst the difficulty.

“Did it hurt me to see my stuff out to the street? Yeah, a little, but I can replace it all,” she said. “I was just happy that my children and my grandchildren were safe. I always believe out of every storm come blessings.”

Betty is waiting for her house to be reconstructed by her contractor but due to the holidays, no set date has been given. She hopes she can have her house ready by March 2021.