Governor John Bel Edwards will be providing an update on the state's response to Hurricane Laura.
"It is clear that we did not sustain the catastrophic damage that we thought based on forecast from last night," said Edwards. "But we have sustained a tremendous amount of damage."
The governor said that thousands of businesses and homes are upside down as of Thursday with damage from the storm including being without electrical power and water service.
"We lot of work to do," said Edwards. "But, we are in better shape today than what might have been the case. We have a lot to be thankful for."
The governor said that Laura made landfall as predicted at 1 a.m. Thursday morning as a strong CAT 4 with 150 mph winds.
"This was the most powerful storm to ever make landfall in Louisiana," said Edwards."
The governor said that a shelter in place order remains in effect for Westlake and Moss Bluff after fire erupted Thursday at a chemical plant leaking chlorine into the atmosphere.
Col. Kevin Reeves, the Superintendent of the Louisiana State, said that the BioLab facility in Westlake manufactures chlorine pool products, which began to decompose sometime last night during the storm.
Reeves said that as the chlorine began to decompose it began to burn and was released into the atmosphere. Some of the company's employees tried unsuccessfully to reduce the fire before contacting state police.
Reeves said that BioLab is working with state and local officials including the Louisiana Department of Environmentally Quality to extinguish the fire and monitor air quality in the area.
Reeves said that as of the press conference that started at 1 p.m., the facility was still burning and did not have a timeline when it would be put out.
Edwards said that despite the heat, residents are advised to keep their doors and windows sealed and shut their air conditioners units off.
Edwards also addressed the Isle of Capri Casino Barge coming loose during the storm last night and being stuck underneath the Calcasieu River Bridge.
Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson said that the Isle of Capri Barge has since been dislodged from the Calcasieu River Bridge.
However, the bridge and that portion of I-10 remain closed while DOTD can assess the damage from the barge on the bridge.
Edwards said that the state is now fully focused on search and rescue operations to identify those most in need impacted from Laura.
He credited the lower than expected amount of damage from Laura was a result of the storm track shifting slightly East from what was forecast. He said this is why it didn't get too much storm surge in Lake Charles so South winds never pushed water up the Calcasieu Ship Channel.
Edwards said that the storm surge was closer to 9-10 ft and that the 20 ft storm surge didn't materialize as predicted.
"The good news is that despite the strength of the storm and how long it lasted, we never lost communication with the affected parishes," said Edwards. "That's never happened before."
Edwards credited this achievement with the investments made across the state with regard to storm preparation since Hurricane Katrina.
Edwards urged residents to not go "sight seeing" and not get on the roads unless it was absolutely necessary to do so as lots of places across the state that still have downed power lines and tress as well as flooded streets.
Wilson also said that 25 teams of debris contractors have been activated to remove debris from state highways that will cover the entire state in addition to DOTD staff.
Edwards said he had spoken with Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar who had provided both Louisiana and Texas with more flexibility in regard to regulations on Medicaid and Medicare for nursing home patients and other who may be impacted by the storm.
Edwards also said that the full Louisiana National Guard will remain activated to assist with recovery operations across the state.
He added that 2,100 people were currently in shelters across the state with 1,900 of them in non-congregant shelters such as hotels and motels.
Edwards said that the Disaster Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program is not currently available because the state still has to determine if it meets the threshold to qualify for it.
He said that interested residents could pre-register for DSNAP benefits in case the state is approved by visiting DCFS.LA.gov/DSNAP.
Edwards also said that the Louisiana Workforce Commission was still working to send $47 million in federal enhanced unemployment benefits to those who qualify across the state. He said LWC has caught up with payments and will resume them next week.
The full press briefing from Thursday afternoon can be viewed below:
For more on Hurricane Laura, which has now been downgraded to a Tropical storm as it makes its way out of Louisiana, click here.
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