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Two Seafarers' Centers Damaged by Hurricane Laura

lake charles
Hurricane damage survey overflight, Lake Charles, August 27 (file image courtesy USCG)

By Susan Huppert 09-01-2020 07:56:25

Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 hurricane, left significant damage at the Stella Maris Seafarer’s Center in Lake Charles, Louisiana, after it made landfall on the Texas-Louisiana border last Thursday.

“Half of our roof was lost,” said Deacon Patrick Lapoint, director of the outreach to international seafarers at Lake Charles. “We have a doublewide trailer with a building added to it in 1995 to double the size. The chapel, kitchen, office and a bathroom of the doublewide are all damaged.” Deacon Patrick showed photos of the damage on his Facebook account.

The complete doublewide will have to be removed leaving the mission with half the space. The remaining structure will have to accommodate a smaller chapel, kitchenette and bathroom, according to the center director.

The ministry is at a standstill as the ship channel is closed due to the hurricane. Prior to the hurricane, ships in port headed into the Gulf away from the path of the storm and will not be returning until the channel damage is corrected.

The Diocese of Lake Charles, which oversees the Stella Maris center, is actively tarping other structures also. It is unclear at this time when the remodel will be able to take place.

The West Gulf Maritime Association noted in a recent report that chemical plants in Lake Charles remained shut Aug. 31 in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, amid widespread power outage and ongoing damage assessment.

Additionally, the City of Port Arthur is slowly returning to regular operations after the hurricane. Citizens are urged to return only if power has been restored to their homes. The City of Port Arthur remains under a Disaster Declaration.

The Port Arthur International Seafarers Center was without electricity until yesterday. It sustained damage to windows in its tallest tower. No leaking has been reported. All of their vans for transporting seafarers were safely warehoused.

The Port Arthur center cares for its international shipping community and commercial fishers. Secretary General of the AOS-USA, Doreen Badeaux, said shrimpers secured their vessels in a relatively safe haven and took cover prior to the hurricane. However, three shrimpers died, four were in critical condition, and two are stable as a result of the misuse of a generator in a pool hall where they were staying.

Badeaux commented that a dry dock was down and blocking the waterway, which will limit ship movements. “We were really spared when the storm switched slightly to the west,” she said.

Chaplain Dana Blume at the Houston International Seafarer’s Center was affected far less. Ships that moved out of Port Houston prior to the hurricane are returning, but leaving at a much faster pace.

“Ships are coming in and need to turn around quickly,” said Blume. “The ships are docked for about half the time so seafarers are being pushed harder. We do shopping runs for groceries, toiletries, SIM cards and electronics for them.”

Sometimes the ships are pulling away from the dock by the time the center drivers arrive to deliver, but in all, the workers of the center are grateful for missing the bulk of the storm.

“I’m completely relieved and overjoyed,” said Blume. “We had no rain, no wind and no damage. I am very thankful and grateful.” 

“I think the seafarer centers have once again stepped up to support not only seafarers but to minister to the local maritime community. They are not only dealing with the ongoing impact of the COVID pandemic, but now back-to-back hurricanes in the Gulf Coast," said Niels Aalund of the West Gulf Maritime Association. "The thing that impresses me is that they are working with financial hardships to make their budgets work and yet, they minister to others in time of need. In general, it is a testament to their staff and dedicated volunteers.”

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.