Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (center) stands with several local officials during a press conference hosted at the Evangeline Parish 9-1-1 Office on Sunday, May 19, 2019, where he addressed the massive amount of storm damage that occurred early Sunday morning in Evangeline Parish. Local officials present for the press conference included: Louisiana Senator Eric LaFleur; Louisiana State Representative Bernard LeBas; Evangeline Parish Tax Assessor Dirk Deville; Office of Emergency Preparedness Director Liz Hill; Major Jeremy Mitchell, with the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office; Pat Derouselle, Chairman of the Evangeline Parish 9-1-1/OEP Board and Solid Waste Commissioner; Ville Platte Chief of Police Neal Lartigue; Ville Platte Mayor Jennifer Vidrine; Ville Platte Fire Chief Chris Harrison; and Evangeline Parish Police Jury President Ryan Williams. Officials at the state level that Edwards recognized were: Kevin Reeves, with Louisiana State Police; Major General Glenn Curtis, General of the National Guard; James Waskom, who runs the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness; and Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Shawn Wilson, who participated in a conference with local officials by phone prior to the press conference. (LSN photo by Elizabeth West)
Gov. Edwards visits storm damaged areas in Evangeline Parish; offers advice to those affected
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards made a special trip to Evangeline Parish on Sunday to address the massive amount of damage caused by tornadoes and severe weather that passed through the parish early Sunday morning.
During an address he gave to local media at the Evangeline Parish 9-1-1 Office Sunday afternoon, he stated, “I want to thank all of the people of this part of the sate that have been good neighbors to one another and the first responders who have been working so hard all day and who will continue to work into the night helping citizens who are without electricity, whose homes have been damaged, who have received a lot of debris and so forth in their yards and on the road.”
Edwards said, “We’ve had a least three instances of tornadoes suspected in this region of the state in Allen, Beauregard, and Evangeline Parish. We also have a suspected tornado that touched down in St. Helena Parish this morning at around 8:30.” He also shared that storm damage occurred in Acadia and St. Landry as well, but it was not due to tornadoes.”
The tornado that wreaked havoc on Ville Platte, Evangeline Parish 9-1-1 Director Liz Hill said made its way through at 6:00 a.m. on the morning of May 19, 2019. They are waiting on the National Weather System to declare exactly the type of tornado that caused the extensive damage seen throughout the city.
According to the governor, Evangeline Parish and Ville Platte received the worst of the damage from the storm. Edwards said, “It appears most of the damage was sustained here or at least this area was damaged most severely. Here in the Ville Platte area there are about 6,600 residents without power, at least 50 homes have been damaged by fallen trees, and we know that a gas station was severely damaged as well." Several dozen electricity poles have been uprooted or broken. In this region as a whole, Edwards said 22,000 people are without electricity.
However, CLECO has been working tirelessly to get power back on for residents. Edwards said, “We know that CLECO is on the ground. They are surging. They are bringing in contract labor from outside the region in order to try and get electricity back up and running to try and get electricity back as quickly as possible, but there are down trees all over the region, in yards, on streets, in highways and in rights-of-way.”
During his address the governor also shared that “very fortunately, there has not been a loss of life, but the hospital here in Evangeline Parish and Ville Platte has reported there has been three non-serious injuries that were weather related.”
However, he asks that everyone be extremely cautious. Edwards said, “We have been very fortunate that their hasn’t been a loss of life or serious injury yet. Quite often in these types of natural disasters we will have serious accidents or even a fatality when individuals start to go about and clean up through operating a chainsaw or a tree falls the rest of the way or they touch a power line that they thought was not live and it turns out to be live.”
With it still be possible for injuries to occur, the governor urges residents to be “cautious and patient.” Edwards said, “This is not a time for sightseeing. We also are asking that everyone monitor their local authorities. Heed the warnings and advice they are giving.”
Edwards also announced that Evangeline Parish Police Jury President Ryan Williams has issued a state of emergency declaration for Evangeline Parish and that he intends on issuing a statewide emergency declaration later today.
Additional law enforcement officers with the Louisiana Sate Police will be coming to Evangeline Parish to assist the Ville Platte Police Department and the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office in patrolling the City of Ville Platte as well as throughout Evangeline Parish.
A curfew has been set for the City of Ville Platte by its mayor, Jennifer Vidrine, and that curfew is from now until 6:00 a.m. Monday morning. This curfew has also been extended to the Ward 1 area, which is Tate Cove, Belaire Cove, Point Blue and Chataignier areas.
Schools were already set to be closed for students on Monday, May 20, 2019, however faculty is still expected to report for the previously scheduled professional staff development training.
Superintendent of Schools Darwan Lazard also shared that Monday morning’s eighth grade end of the year ceremonies have not changed. However, he said, “If any changes are made, notifications will be issued prior to 10:00 p.m. this evening.”
Edwards also reminded residents that “we have been experiencing this severe weather for the last several weeks.” He said, “We don’t know exactly what the forecast will bring us over the next several days as people are trying to clean up and get their lives back to normal, but we are asking them to be as safe as they possibly can be.”
There are no shelters open due to the number of individuals who actually need a shelter being relatively small. However, the governor did say if someone is in need of shelter and does not have family or friends to call then they need to contact their authorities in Evangeline Parish. Edwards said, “We are going to try to make sure there is some assistance for them.”
Damage assessment that will take place in the region consisting of Evangeline, Allen, Beauregard, St. Helena, Acadia and St. Landry Parishes, will occur sometime this coming week. The purpose of the assessment will be to determine if the threshold has been met that might allow for federal assistance. Edwards said, “At this time, we don’t anticipate that will be the case. I don’t believe that we will be getting assistance as it relates to either public or private assistance.”
Individuals who have been affected by this storm that are in need of supplies such as water or tarps may contact the Ville Platte Police Department at (337) 363-1313.