What was it like to ride out the storm? Hurricane Laura survivors who didn't evacuate tell their stories
On Aug. 27, AccuWeather's Jonathan Petramala talked with residents of Lake Charles, Louisiana, who sheltered in place during Hurricane Laura.
As Hurricane Laura barreled toward Louisiana's coastline, some residents of Lake Charles chose to ride out the strongest storm to hit the state in over a century.
"We did not ride out Rita in 2005, so we felt like, you know, we are going to do it this time, and it was one of the scariest things I've ever been through and I would not recommend it to anybody," Patty Palmer, who rode out the hurricane in her home, told AccuWeather reporter Jonathan Petramala.
This was the first time on record that a Category 4 hurricane made landfall in southwestern Louisiana, and Laura's 150-mph windspeed has it tied with the 1856 Last Island storm for the strongest landfalling hurricane in the state's history.
Amazingly, there have been no reports of fatalities from the city, though residents described the experience as "terrifying." Elsewhere across the state, officials have confirmed at least 16 fatalities related to the storm.
To the south of Lake Charles, at least 150 residents of Cameron Parish, where Laura made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds that were 7 mph shy of a qualifying as a Category 5 hurricane, refused to evacuate.
"It's a very sad situation," Ashley Buller, assistant director of the parish Office of Emergency Preparedness, told The Associated Press. "We did everything we could to encourage them to leave."
Cameron experienced up to 9 feet in storm surge, and though the storm surge has waned, the water will be left behind for while, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Houk said.
The Cameron area will "be uninhabitable for weeks or months due to storm surge and devastating winds," Houk added.
Preparing for storm surge with the building sitting next to a bayou, about 15 guests and the staff at a Motel 6 in Lake Charles took shelter on the third floor.
"Getting everybody to safety, making sure that they were safe -- putting them on the third floor was the logical explanation to make sure everybody was safe," Motel 6 employee Joyce Vandenberg told Petramala.
However, under the unrelenting 130-mph winds, the roof of the motel's third floor collapsed, and much of what remained torn away by the monstrous hurricane in the middle of the night.
Other residents decided to ride the hurricane out in their home.
"It was just so unrelenting," Palmer told Petramala. "The winds would come up and it's like, they just would not go down, and it was just one of the scariest things I've ever been through."
In Hackberry, a census-designated place in Cameron Parish, Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer spoke with two people who rode out the storm in an RV described the sound of the winds sounding "like a freight train."
Almon Johnson described himself as "the luckiest person in the world." His house had damaged in the storm, and two large longleaf pine trees had come crashing down in his yard. The one fell into the road while the other crushed his neighbor's home. Fortunately, they had evacuated ahead of the storm.
Of the 16 reported deaths from Laura, at least five of them were the result of trees falling on a residence.
"It's just nice to be alive," Johnson said.
Reporting by Jonathan Petramala.
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