Editor’s Note: A version of this article originally appeared in the weekly weather newsletter, the CNN Weather Brief, which is released every Monday. You can sign up here to receive them every week and during significant storms.
Even two years later, Yolanda Tezeno’s voice quivers as she describes the day she returned to her Louisiana home following Hurricane Laura’s unyielding wrath.
“It was total devastation in our area. All the homes are just destroyed,” Tezeno recounted. She took a long pause; the wound was as fresh as it was that August day in 2020.
Tezeno arrived at her Cameron Parish neighborhood fearing the worst, and amid the rubble, there stood her home. It looked unscathed.
But Tezeno’s feelings of hope were quickly dashed when she opened the door. Inside, it was a very different story.
“The back was all blown out. The AC unit flew off the back of our house. All the siding came off the house, my back porch on my house with two bedrooms and the bathrooms were all caved in,” Tezeno told CNN.
For two years, Tezeno – a single mother – and her four children have not been able to move back in as the home gets repaired. She’s been living with relatives as she balances what seems like three full-time jobs: her actual full-time job, raising her family, and endlessly dealing with insurance companies.
“This whole thing has taken an emotional toll on me,” she admitted.
Tezeno and her family are preparing to move back in a matter of weeks, which also happens to be right in time for the start of the hurricane season.
NOAA is predicting the 2022 season will be above-average once again, with 6-10 hurricanes and 3-6 major storms (Category 3 or higher).
According to Colorado State University, the chances of Louisiana getting hit with a named storm within 50 miles this season are 84%.
“Oh Jesus, keep us spared,” Tezeno sighed.
As Tezeno and her fellow Louisianans try to mentally prepare for hurricanes yet to come, two years after Laura, Lake Charles – 45 miles north of Cameron Parish – still looks like a blue patchwork quilt.
“I still see blue tarps out there, there are plenty of homes and businesses that are still not completely put back together,” Lake Charles National Weather Service meteorologist Stephen Corbani observed.
“There is a literal PTSD out there in the community,” explained Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter. “It’s a visceral thing.”
The storm cost more than a billion dollars in the state of Louisiana alone, with more than 44,000 households approved by FEMA to receive housing assistance. According to Louisiana’s Disaster Care Management Program, there are still more than 2,000 cases still open in the Lake Charles area – that’s 2,000 families still working to rebuild.
“We have some homes that literally have not been touched since Hurricane Laura,” Hunter noted.
But he told CNN they just got word more help is on the way.
“Though it has taken far too long, there is over a billion dollars in federal aid that has been allocated for hurricanes Laura and Delta. We are immensely thankful for that,” he added.
The previous two hurricane seasons have been particularly cruel for Louisiana. In 2020, four named storms struck the state, and in 2021, Ida, a Category 4 behemoth, battered the southeastern part of the state on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The poundings have left residents wary of what lies ahead.
“Certainly, as we approach hurricane season, locals are just a bit more on edge than they were prior to 2020,” Hunter acknowledged.
While it is impossible to know exactly where these storms will make landfall, the forecasts are grim.
“Looking at some of the climate signals that are out there, like La Niña, it seems like we’re in store for another above normal season, just in terms of numbers and activity across the Atlantic basin,” Carboni projected.
Lake Charles is home for Carboni too, and like Tezeno, he hopes this year’s busy season doesn’t end up affecting his area, still so vulnerable from two seasons ago.
“The last thing we need would be for another hurricane to affect this area,” Carboni remarked.
If you are in a hurricane zone and are preparing for the upcoming season, hopefully you have a plan for you and your family, as well as a hurricane supply kit.
After talking to Tezeno, though, she expressed some advice I think many times gets overlooked.
“Write down everything that you have. I don’t care if it’s minor and take pictures of everything that you can and check your policy,” she urged.
She also recommended securing your home if you evacuate. She recalled many of her neighbors fled their homes, only to come back and find it structurally damaged AND everything inside looted.
Lastly, she advised having some sort of hurricane savings account.
“Have as much as you can to take care of yourself without relying on insurance, because sometimes they are not as quick to come to your aid as you think.”