LAKE CHARLES, La. -- Sioux City's sister city, Lake Charles, Louisiana, was battered by Hurricane Laura in the wee hours Thursday morning.
Lake Charles, population about 78,000, is about an hour north of the Gulf Coast. The hurricane made landfall at the small coastal community of Cameron, directly to the south of Lake Charles and just east of the Texas border, and rapidly proceeded inland from there.
Winds gusted to as high as 150 miles an hour, putting the hurricane among the most powerful storms on record in the United States. A 14-year-old girl was killed in the community of Leesville, north of Lake Charles, when a tree fell on her home.
The wind gusts reportedly peeled off roofs, knocked down trees and blew the windows out of tall buildings. Police spotted a floating casino that came unmoored and hit a bridge. A full assessment of the damage could take days.
The hurricane's storm surge did not prove to be as catastrophic as was initially forecast.
Lake Charles and Sioux City formed a sister city relationship in 1995. The two communities bond over Mardi Gras -- Sioux City's Mardi Gras Festivale is in July, while Lake Charles' celebrations are usually held in January and February.
The Krewe de Charlie Sioux is a Mardi Gras social club comprised of people from both Lake Charles (Charlie) and Sioux City. Roger Caudron, a longtime member of the Krewe, said that people on the Sioux City side of the organization are prepared to head down to Lake Charles to help with the recovery.
"At least from our Mardi Gras Krewe, we've had a couple of folks that have already indicated that when and if they are needed, we'll be sending some people down," said Caudron, who has made 15 or 16 trips to Lake Charles over the years.
From what he's heard from acquaintances in Lake Charles, Caudron said Laura's winds were punishing.
"Anything that wasn't tied down is now eight or 10 parishes away," he said.
Marty Pottebaum, a Woodbury County supervisor, has gone to Lake Charles' Mardi Gras celebration for the past 25 years. Of the people he knows in Lake Charles, roughly half the people he knows in the area chose to evacuate, while the other half stayed.
"It's a mess," Pottebaum said.
Pottebaum said he'll make the journey to Lake Charles if he could be of any assistance: "Waiting to hear what they need. I've already told them that, if they need anything, I can be loaded up and headed down there within a couple of hours."
"One of my dearest friends sent a picture of a large pecan tree that landed on his house," he said.
Linda Santi, a native of Sioux City, was living in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. She moved back to Sioux City four or five years ago.
Santi said this week's news of the hurricane brought back painful memories for Katrina survivors. In the immediate aftermath of Katrina, Santi had to live on a cruise ship (the temporary home of displaced New Orleans city workers such as herself) for many months.
Hurricane Larua's landfall coincided almost to the day with the 15th anniversary of Katrina.
"New Orleanians were really having to deal with their PTSD all week," Santi said.
For those who lived through Katrina, she said, the hurricane was a sort of lens through which they see things before and after. In everyday conversations for New Orleans residents, memories of pre-Katrina days are "before," while post-Katrina life was "after."
"Our thoughts were on Lake Charles, because, we thought, 'Oh my God, if this is as bad as they are saying, this is the end of their before life. Their lives are irrevocably changed,'" Santi said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From the archives: Photos of Mardi Gras Festivale 2017
More coverage of Laura’s thrashing of Louisiana. NATION C4
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