Lessons Learned From Hurricane Laura

lessons learned from hurricane laura

This is a guest post by:

D. Bailey is a former EMT-Basic (TX) and had training in Basic Trauma Life Support. He was his squadron’s Cadet Emergency Services Officer in Civil Air Patrol. He was in Civil Air Patrol for 5 years and attained the rank of Cadet Technical Sgt. D. Bailey has helped out as a volunteer in various disasters, some being Hurricane Andrew(South FL), Hurricane Rita, Hurricane Ike, Hurricane Harvey, NE TX Winter storm. He has a background in emergency, disaster response, emergency management and holds various certificates of completion of FEMA Emergency Management Institute Home Study Courses. He currently lives in Eastern TX with his cat, Ninja. Contact him here on Twitter.

Hurricane Laura made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana, around 0600 UTC (1 am CDT) with maximum sustained winds of 130 kt, which is near the high end of category 4 status. 

At the time of landfall, Laura was a ferocious looking hurricane with a clear circular eye, an intense eye-wall, and tightly-coiled surrounding spiral bands. Since the powerful hurricane has been inland for a few hours, there has been some decrease in winds, and the estimated initial wind speed based on Doppler radar data, surface observations, and guidance from an inland decay model is 105 kt.

Over 500k+ people would be affected and be without power. Twenty-three people would lose their life.

Let’s discuss the major issues from Hurricane Laura and lessons learned: 

1. Warnings/Evacuations

SE TX & SW LA had to learn hard lessons taught by storms such as Andrew, Katrina and Harvey. A lot of changes were made over the years, planning, testing & tweaking along with polishing details was done. At one point Port Arthur, TX mayor Thurman Bartie ordered a voluntary evacuation of Sabine Pass and Pleasure Island. Jefferson County Emergency Management began to very closely monitor Hurricane Laura.

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick at first took a wait and see approach but this was only because he wasn’t quite sure about if and when Laura was going to make up her mind on what she wanted to do. Through conference calls with weather forecasters, the governor of TX and federal emergency management officials he was given enough info and guidance on what his next decision was. Within 12-36 hours he ordered a mandatory evacuation of Jefferson County, TX and authorized city mayors to issue mandatory evacuations of their city. 

Lesson: Things can change rapidly during a storm. Even with much better weather forecasting and detection methods, predicting exactly where a storm is going to strike still isn’t down to an exact science. Hurricanes can suddenly change course, change speed and intensity. Some seemingly left the area they affected but looped back around only to add injury to insult. During hurricane season maintain a higher state of alert and pay more attention to weather forecasts. Be sure you have a hurricane evacuation kit and plans for an evacuation. 

Know designated evacuation routes, alternate routes, where you can make pitstops, get gas, food, snacks and designated evacuation locations. Leave as early as possible if you can don’t wait for voluntary evacuation orders.

hurricane laura

2. Power Outages


Hundreds of people die in fires each year from carbon monoxide poisoning, but when a natural or man-made disaster affects some area the fatality count goes up. Why? Improperly placed and vented generators. 

Here are some recent news stories about carbon monoxide deaths in the SE TX & SW LA area for an illustration of the deadliness of carbon monoxide:

Fifth generator death recorded in SE Texas since Hurricane Laura

Hurricane Laura: 3 dead, 23 hospitalized in Port Arthur due to possible carbon monoxide poisoning – ABC13 Houston

Hurricane Laura leads to carbon monoxide poisoning deaths from generators

I can tell you as a former EMT-Basic, Carbon Monoxide poisoning is one of the most difficult to treat from a medical standpoint. It can be as simple as getting the person to fresh air and giving them oxygen to placing them in a hyperbaric chamber and administering drugs to help purge the poisonous molecules from the victims blood and treating the effects of the poisoning which can take hours or days along with time in the ICU. At the very worst, the unfortunate event of death. 

The best thing you can do is don’t put a generator indoors or an enclosed space. 

If you worry about your portable generator being stolen, take security measures to prevent it being taken from you. Also don’t store fuel close to a generator, the fumes could be ignited followed by an explosion. 

3. Crime

In a disaster there are 5 main reasons that crime will occur/be on the increase:

1. People stealing out of true need. They’re stealing to survive, this occurred with Hurricane Katrina and also some were stealing because the opportunity presented itself. 

2. “Opportunists”. These clowns have noticed that things are in a state of chaos, emergency services personnel are overburdened which there may not be enough people to provide vital emergency services coverage, things are in general disarray. 

3. There are no morals, no scruples types, “Loot, murder, burn”. Out to do as much damage as they can and get away with it. 

They just don’t care. Unfortunately these people will quickly very likely end up dead due to use of deadly force because someone was protecting property, their family, themselves and others. 

4. Inadequately/not prepared. The don’t have enough supplies, preps, didn’t prepare. 

5. Desperate. (Self-explanatory)

It all comes down to security. Do you have the means and training to protect yourself in various situations? Firearms, close-quarters combat, tactical shooting, martial arts, self-defense, street fighting, etc.

If you’re a prepper, you may know about OPSEC, PERSEC, INFOSEC, COMMSEC, and CYBERSEC from military/government/corporate experience. Whether you’re a veteran prepper or a newbie, I want to mention 3 or 4 principles here:

  • Never put all your eggs in one basket. That means don’t keep your supplies and gear in one place that’s a big no-no in the military. Have those things in various places, pre-positioned and easily accessible. That way if you should get “jacked”, your home is so badly damaged/destroyed and you lose some stuff, you’ve only taken a minor loss instead of a major one or lost everything. 
  • “Silence Means Security”. Plain and simple KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT! Let me give you a real-life example even though it may be harsh: keep running your mouth about what you have, where it’s at, what you’re doing. Because sooner or later you’re going to have unwanted and uninvited guests show up and they’ll want what you have. If they get angry, desperate enough, they’ll resort to any methods to get your supplies.
  • Stash your stuff. Learn about and utilize caches, pre-positioning, packing & storing what you have and arranging a place to store things w/ a highly trusted person. 
  • “Know Thyself”. Know your limits, capabilities, special needs, down to talents. We were as humans never intended to be or made in cookie-cutter fashion. Each has likes, dislikes, various levels of health, intelligence, speed of learning etc.

4. Money

When a disaster strikes and depending on the scope you might not be able to use an ATM, Banks/Credit Union computers will be down say due to power loss/loss of network access because phone lines were damaged, severed and you might not be able to use credit/debit/bank cards, possibly gift cards either.

So what are the best options? 

  • Cash on-hand. Have bills in various denominations on you, locked away securely in a safe/security box. I recommend a realistic minimum of $1,000.00 including change in various coins for emergencies only. 
  • Don’t Leave Home Without It.
  • It’s always a good idea to have travelers cheques in various denominations in your finance arsenal. Do realize though that there are some places that because of the uncertain economy and its influencing factors won’t take travelers cheques. Do your research before you even consider this alternative.
  • Don’t forget the gift cards! When you’re forced to get out of dodge, gift cards can actually come in handy. There’s whole bunch of businesses that have gift cards for purchase, some are indefinite and some expire at a predetermined time. The good thing is they can usually be refilled. Some ideas of gift cards to have on hand would be: fuel, fast food, retail such as Super Wal-Mart, Dollar General, Family Dollar, supermarket chains(for instance HEB, Kroger, IGA, Food Lion, Whole Foods), Auto parts, Office Supplies, etc. It’s always a good idea to take your credit/debit/bank, fuel cards with you because there’s always a good chance you can still use them.

5. A Place To Call Home

Do you have a home out in the boonies or somewhere else you can go and properly stocked, provided for and secure? 

You may have to stay away from your home in the city or town for a few days because it has suffered major damage or destroyed.

hurricane laura

6. Strength In Numbers

There are no lone-wolf preppers! Let’s say you return home after the all clear and there’s a big mess to clean up. Do you have a MAG together? Can you call upon each other in time of need? Someone may need a hole in their roof temporarily patched, you may have had that new storage shed for tools get blown to all but smithereens. When things start to get rough and mean, it’s good to know when somebody says “I’ve got your back.” they truly mean it. 

7. Capt. Sneaky

Disasters bring out the best and worst in people. Price gouging is the biggest problem in a disaster situation. Even the most legitimate business can get caught up in seeing dollar signs and making a buck off someone’s suffering. 

Watch out for fraudulent schemes involving roofing companies, cleaning and water damage, construction companies offering to do work for you and demanding payment in full up front. Only do business with verified reputable companies and individuals. Be sure to ask if they’re bonded. If they can’t or won’t give you the answer, don’t work with them. Fraud hotlines and reporting websites are available to report these problems. 

Here are some additional things to think about:

1. Check and make needed changes to all insurance policies. The biggest being homeowners and windstorm insurance. 

2. Communications is important. Hurricane Laura destroyed the Lake Charles, LA National Weather Service Office. In the process the weather radar radome was destroyed. There’s no weather radio coverage for this area because the Beaumont, TX NOAA Weather Radio Transmitter site is inoperable because the weather service office was destroyed. The same for the Lake Charles, LA NOAA Weather Radio Transmitter site. Fort Polk, LA Weather radar was rendered inoperable due to damage. The only weather radio transmitter in my area that I can get weather information from is Lufkin, TX on my police scanner app. 

Buy a police scanner. I highly recommend the Uniden Bearcat SDS-200.

Buy a NOAA Weather Radio. 

3. Have a Hurricane plan. Know how to put together a hurricane evacuation kit

4. Keep your vaccinations updated. I can’t say enough here. Tetanus is one of the biggest threats post-hurricane. 

5. Emergency response and disaster training is essential. From as simple as first aid to structural collapse rescue. Training is key if you and others are going to survive. 

Be prepared and be ready.

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Morgan is the founder of Rogue Preparedness. She has been a prepper for over a decade. She's a wife, mother of two daughters and is homesteading off grid. She teaches people how to be prepared for emergencies and disasters.

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