As Hurricane Laura roars toward Louisiana and Texas, many people living in the storm’s path, especially those with heightened vulnerability or with older relatives to care for, have had to weigh the risk of riding out the storm at home against the risk of exposure to the virus if they flee. Others lack the means to escape because their livelihoods have been eviscerated as the economy cratered.
Those two states were hit hard by the virus over the summer, though they have made some progress lately, with daily reports of new cases declining somewhat from their July peaks, according to a New York Times database. Louisiana has had more virus cases per capita than any other state in the country. And Arkansas, where it appears the storm will head next as it moves inland, has been struggling with rising deaths from the virus.
Like many of his neighbors, Chris Vinn of Lake Charles, La., got busy boarding up his house soon after officials issued a mandatory evacuation order. Mr. Vinn, who tested positive for the virus in July, and his family decided to leave, but not to an evacuation center. They booked an Airbnb about three hours’ drive away in Lafayette instead.
“We do try to take safety precautions as much as possible, so we did not want to be in a hotel full of people or run to a shelter or anything like that,” Mr. Vinn said.
Memories of another major storm, Hurricane Rita in 2005, kept Amy L’Hoste from evacuating from Lake Charles this time. She said she did not want to repeat the terrifying experience of riding out that storm at her grandparents’ house in Ragley, La., about 20 miles north. “I’ll never forget waking up the next morning, and it looked like a war zone,” she said.
As of Wednesday morning, the State of Louisiana had evacuated about 900 people who lacked ready access to transportation out of the Lake Charles area to hotel rooms elsewhere, mostly around Baton Rouge, according to Mike Steele, a state spokesman.