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Local volunteers help with Hurricane Laura relief efforts

Posted at 10:02 PM, Aug 27, 2020

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – The worst of Hurricane Laura is over for Louisiana and Texas.

As daylight broke Thursday morning, a small but mighty team of three with Operation Blessing got a better look at the devastation.

Blake Mueller is the deployment manager with the local nonprofit.

“It was incredible; very similar to other hurricanes we’ve been a part of,” Mueller said. “Downed power lines, massive trees all over, that have fallen over. There’s not a lot of flooding where we are."

Mueller and the Assessment Team arrived a couple hours outside Lake Charles, Louisiana, around 1:30 a.m. Thursday, just as Hurricane Laura was making landfall on the coast as a Category 4.

By the time the storm reached them, Mueller said Laura was a Category 2.

“It was a lot of rain, lots of sustained winds, wind gusts above over 70 mph,” he said. “We were thankful we were able to get in before anything hit.”

The storm knocked out power to half a million customers. Lake Charles was one of the hardest-hit areas.

“We’re a little sleep deprived, but we’re doing well,” said Mueller.

Riding out the storm’s powerful force was a first for Mueller and his team, but not for Operation Blessing.

“This is what we do,” Mueller said. “We run headfirst into a disaster and just meet people where their needs are and see how we can serve the community.”

Now, with a truck full of basic supplies and equipment, the disaster relief team is ready to help those in need.

“We have tarps that we can replace peoples damaged roofs with a tarp,” Mueller said. “We can do chainsaw operations so we can tear down trees for people. We can also muck and gut their houses that have been flooded. We get all the wet drywall and flooring out of their houses so they can get back up on their feet, and dry out their homes and just get back to some sort of normalcy, which is pretty hard to say these days.”

The American Red Cross also has boots on the ground in hard-hit areas of Louisiana and Texas.

Kristopher Dumschat is the communications manager with the American Red Cross. He said volunteers across the country have been preparing for the hurricane’s response effort for several days.

“Our volunteers will be going out doing disaster assessment, providing relief efforts,” said Dumschat. “We have set up shelter operations and provided places for people to go ahead of the storm.”

As the storm moves north through Arkansas, more than two dozen Red Cross volunteers from across Virginia are working around the clock to prepare and brace for more of Laura. Many more volunteers are on standby.

Related: Portsmouth-based Mercy Chefs prepares to help Hurricane Laura victims

“The destruction is catastrophic down there,” said Dumschat. “There’s going to be a need for a lot more help from not just the American Red Cross but from many organizations and many passionate people who want to step up and help.”

To help those affected by Laura, you can donate to the American Red Cross and Operation Blessing. People can also text "Laura" to 90999 to make an instant $10 donation through the Red Cross.