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Major disaster declaration unlikely for tornado damage in southwest Louisiana, governor says

National Weather Service Lake Charles
An EF-2 (130 MPH winds) tornado struck Lake Charles at 12:20 p.m. on Wednesday.

Gov. John Bel Edwards will not issue a major disaster declaration after a severe storm blew through Southwest Louisiana on Wednesday.

“The scope of the damage isn’t such that we’re unable to deal with it as a state or even potentially as a parish,” Edwards said Thursday during a press conference in Lake Charles, which sustained most of the damage from the storm.

On Wednesday evening the National Weather Service Lake Charles confirmed that an EF-2 tornado, with winds of up to 130 MPH, touched down in the city at about 12:20 pm that afternoon.

Edwards said roughly 12 homes were severely damaged and several others sustained minor damage. He noted that two people were injured, but that no one died.

“I ask everybody around the state to please lift up this community in your prayers,” Edwards said. “Those prayers can also be prayers of Thanksgiving because we didn’t have anybody killed.”

Lake Charles and Calcasieu Parish saw significant destruction in August 2020 when Category 4 Hurricane Laura tore through Southwest Louisiana. Laura was followed by Hurricane Delta six weeks later, which brought widespread flooding and other destruction. In February 2021 the region sustained an icy winter storm that plunged temperatures to below freezing and in May it was hit with a historic flooding event.

“Seriously, enough is enough,” Edwards said. “That’s enough to test anybody.”

Edwards is on his way to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Scotland. He said he is going there in part, “because the severe weather incidents are becoming more frequent and more severe.”

Edwards said he is seeking investment in renewable energy in Louisiana.

“The future is not fossil fuels,” he said, highlighting solar, wind and hydrogen energy. “Those are the areas where we can secure investments that lead to good paying jobs and careers to support families all while we do what we can to limit climate change.”

Edwards said he believes Louisiana can move away from fossil fuels while remaining an “energy state.”

While he acknowledged that oil and gas will likely always be necessary he said, “the state of Louisiana cannot afford to be more pro oil and gas than even the oil and gas companies,” as companies like BP have recently announced investments in renewable energy.

Bobbi-Jeanne Misick is the justice, race and equity reporter for the Gulf States Newsroom, a collaboration between NPR, WWNO in New Orleans, WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama and MPB-Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson. She is also an Ida B. Wells Fellow with Type Investigations at Type Media Center.

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