Wed | Oct 21, 2020

We serve with pride - Jamaican workers help rebuild Lake Charles, Louisiana, after hurricane devastation

Published:Saturday | October 17, 2020 | 12:11 AMKaryl Walker/Gleaner Writer
Crewmen at work in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Crewmen at work in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

There is not a large Jamaican presence in Lake Charles, Louisiana – the section of the southern state that was bludgeoned by Hurricane Laura six weeks ago. But since the passage of powerful Hurricane Laura, a number of Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals have been very active in the recovery work being conducted there. The workers were forced to hunker down as Delta passed, but as soon as floodwaters receded, they were back on the job.

Most of the 78,000 residents of Lake Charles have had to live without Internet and cable TV services since the passage of Laura.

Evidence of Laura’s wrath is ever-present as houses and trailer parks are still in disrepair and many businesses have no roofs, windows, or doors. Many have been completely flattened by the powerful winds associated with Laura.Even with the approach of another powerful system, the workers, inclusive of linesmen, groundsmen, drivers, subcontractors, and contractors, worked feverishly to erect fibre-optic cables and other fixtures necessary to restore the services.

Lake Charles faced the wrath of Hurricane Delta, which pelted a double blow, causing serious flooding, uprooting light poles, and downing power, cable, and telephone lines.

The second weather system was more of a rainmaker, however, and didn’t dish out as much punishment.

Grateful

“We are so grateful for the work that you guys are here doing. We need the help, and our lives have not been the same since Laura. The work you guys are doing will help us to return to normal routine. Thank you so much,” Nola Hunter, who works at a Circle K gas station, said.

Barron Rhodd supervises a crew of eight Jamaica-born workmen who have been busy fulfilling his contractual arrangement with Sudden Link, the company responsible for providing Internet and cable TV services in that section of southern Louisiana.

“This is my calling. Me and my crew live to provide this crucial service to the people who are badly affected and for those who have not yet had the service. Our goal is to get this project over with by Christmas so these people can be happy,” Rhodd told The Gleaner.

This is the first gig for Worrell Whittaker, a Jamaican who resides in Broward County, Florida. Whittaker was pleasantly surprised by the kindness and warmth displayed by the people of Lake Charles towards the work crews in a part of the Southern US often branded as being influenced by negative racial stereotypes.

“The people here are so warm and accepting. They wave to us and tell us thanks for our work and even bring us lunches. When I heard I was coming to Louisiana, I was a bit apprehensive, but that feeling was quickly wiped out when we came to Lake Charles. The people love my accent and are very warm,” he said.

There are about 40 Jamaicans, along with Guyanese and Bahamian nationals, working on the restoration project, and all are gunning for a return to work.

The workmen begin their daily tasks at the crack of dawn and work right through each day until the light fades. Many stay in hotels or rented houses that are more than an hour away from the work sites as all accommodations in Lake Charles have been either destroyed or are already booked out.

“We serve with pride and represent Jamaica with honour everywhere we go. We will do the same here for these warm people of Lake Charles,” Rhodd said.