Rotary of Winnfield met at Lynda’s Country Kitchen on Wednesday, September 16, 2020, to hear from Winn Parish Police Jury President, Josh McAllister, and his wife, Toni, about the aftermath of Hurricane Laura which hit our local area on August 27, 2020 and destroyed a large portion of significant energy transmission infrastructure in Winn Parish in addition to felling trees on numerous properties, including some homes.
In a parish-wide emergency, the Police Jury president and the Sheriff bear the primary authority and responsibility for coordinating emergency assistance in the disaster recovery and maintaining order during the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Mr. McAllister identified destruction of the main electrical transmission system for the parish as the primary problem caused by the storm, which was reported to remain at the strength of a category 2 hurricane when it traversed Winn Parish. Obviously, the resulting power outage which affected almost the entire parish required immediate attention, but the first and foremost task was clearing of roads to allow travel for many emergency services. With the electrical service interrupted, communication, both local and long distance areas, was impossible. It was not until roads were cleared so vehicles could reach areas outside the parish that anyone outside the parish learned of the damage and needs for emergency assistance in Winn Parish. At this point, the McAllisters were able to go to neighboring parishes and reach cellular service to call for disaster assistance. Among those first responding to calls for help were U. S. Congressman Ralph Abraham and State Representative Michael T. Johnson of Rapides Parish.
In due course, we received aid and assistance from the National Guard, which deployed over 100 guardsmen to the parish to help with road clearance, water, ice and food. The next greatest need was restoration of electrical power to the area, temporarily with generators, and then permanently, which required the work of hundreds of linemen, their trucks and equipment, supplied by Entergy, Swepco and the City of Winnfield. The third greatest need, food and water for a majority of the population in the parish, was supplied by a disaster assistance group from Shreveport and the Cajun Navy. Those groups supplying food provided over 15,000 meals in the space of four days after word got out regarding the needs of the people in the parish.
Mrs. McAllister spoke about the many local volunteers who came together in the days after the storm to help clear vegetation and debris, distribute food and hand out water and ice. She also mentioned the aid of many people who were raised here in Winn Parish but have relocated, who collected countless vital supplies such as nonperishable food and water through their church communities and drove many hours to bring the items to Winnfield to be distributed by volunteers. Her main point was how much the Lord blessed the parish with the outpouring of aid and assistance from so many people and organizations, as well as in the fact that there were no fatalities caused by the storm.
The Rotary Club of Winnfield meets every Wednesday at Noon for lunch at Lynda’s Country Kitchen. For more information about the Rotary Club of Winnfield, you may contact President, Jodi Taylor (832) 573-5085. You can also find club information on Facebook at Rotary Club of Winnfield Facebook Page or online at Rotary.org.