LAKE CHARLES, La. (BP) – Some may give up trying to make a home in southwest Louisiana with flooding that has killed four people and caps a year of hurricanes, heavy rains and a devastating winter freeze.
“This latest go-round of wind and water is, it’s going to change the social landscape of the community,” Carey Baptist Association Director of Missions Bruce Baker said today (May20). “There are people that just won’t come back. Just story after story of someone that just got drywall back into their home and just got flooring back in, and then a foot of water. It’s pretty rough.”
The Carey Association is part of Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief’s response to days of torrential rainfall in the state that officials said flooded between 500 and 1000 homes in Lake Charles, many of them still damaged from hurricanes Laura and Delta between August and October of 2020. Additional damage is in Baton Rouge.
“They are up to their eyeballs in all this right now,” Baker said of state and local disaster relief workers and volunteers assessing damage and planning a response. “This all takes a huge toll on our pastors because they work into that role where they are constantly caring for other people, and their own emotional and spiritual and physical reserves just run out.
“We’ve had COVID. We’ve had five hurricanes hit the Louisiana coast last year. We had a freeze that just knocked everybody’s socks off. Thousands of homes with broken pipes, and then now these multiple days of flooding. And the flooding’s not done.”
Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief has established an incident command center at Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles with assessors, chaplains and mud-out crews, said Louisiana disaster relief strategist Stan Statham.
“We have teams coming we know from Kentucky and probably going to have teams from Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas and probably Ohio at this point,” Statham said. “We’re assessing Baton Rouge and the numbers there are coming in slow, so we may have to set up a separate (command) site in Baton Rouge.”
Trinity Baptist served as a temporary shelter for displaced flood victims Monday, but the city has since moved the shelter to the Lake Charles Civic Center.
“Got a call from Calcasieu Parish sheriff asking if we’d be able to house people displaced by the flood. We said certainly and opened up our gym facilities,” Pastor Steve James told KATC-TV.
Both Statham and Baker are asking Southern Baptists to pray for those impacted, including the chaplains and volunteers who will help with recovery.
“To nonbelievers it sounds like a bad cliché,” Baker said, “to talk about prayer is important. But, prayer is important. Prayer for physical, and emotional and spiritual strength and stamina is priority. We really need that.”
Statham put out a call for extra chaplains. Thousands of homes still had blue tarps covering damaged roofs, and high winds and rains caused additional damage.
A handful of Lake Charles-area Southern Baptist churches suffered flash flooding, with Messiah Baptist Church taking on about 3 feet of water and likely requiring the longest recovery, Baker said. The association is challenged to house volunteer crews because many churches have not completed rebuilding from hurricane damage. Churches such as First Baptist of Sulphur and Mount Olive Baptist Church in Lake Charles would typically house volunteers, but their facilities are not fully repaired, Baker said.
Deaths include two drownings and a 76-year-old who died when a power outage interrupted his oxygen supply in Baton Rouge as well as a 61-year-old man found submerged in his vehicle in Calcasieu Parish, weather.com reported.
Texas and Arkansas have also suffered from the storms. At least 15 people had to be rescued from flash flooding in Arkansas, and more than 1,000 lightning strikes burned two apartment complexes in Houston. The National Weather Services has predicted the possibility of severe flooding into the weekend.