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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

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‘It’s heartbreaking’: In Hurricane Laura’s wake, UH student, community left to recover


Mechanical engineering sophomore Jacob Rimlinger's Lake Charles home after Hurricane Laura. | Courtesy of Jacob Rimlinger

Mechanical engineering sophomore Jacob Rimlinger’s Lake Charles home after Hurricane Laura. | Courtesy of Jacob Rimlinger

For UH students who live in the geographical areas damaged by Hurricane Laura, the struggle to get back up and help fellow Louisianans during the first week of school has been long and difficult.

Mechanical engineering sophomore Jacob Rimlinger lives in Lake Charles, Louisiana, but evacuated to Waco on the second day of classes. When he returned, he found his town in shambles.

Rimlinger’s own house is still standing, but the front yard tree is completely uprooted, fences were destroyed and debris was everywhere. As of Sept. 4, over a week since the hurricane made landfall in Cameron, Louisiana, his area still lacks clean water and power.

“I have many friends that live in (Cameron) just south of where I live,” Rimlinger said. “It looks like Cameron has been washed off of the map. It’s heartbreaking.”

A week following Hurricane Laura’s landfall, Rimlinger met with a University financial aid adviser to discuss his options now that his financial situation has changed due to the natural disaster. He was told he would need to submit his Free Application for Federal Student Aid and Financial Aid Reconsideration form.

Rimlinger expressed frustration at the lack of national coverage about the hurricane’s destruction.

Cameron and Lake Charles residents struggled without water, power and sometimes even shelter for 48 hours before President Trump declared a national disaster and FEMA arrived to help, Rimlinger said.

While in Waco, Rimlinger discovered many locals, including Baylor University students, were unaware of the natural disaster’s potential to cause damage, or even of its existence altogether.

Jacob Rimlinger's backyard in the aftermath of Laura. | Courtesy of Jacob Rimlinger

Jacob Rimlinger’s backyard in the aftermath of Laura. | Courtesy of Jacob Rimlinger

“Most of these people have no idea how catastrophic a hurricane can be,” Rimlinger said. “Many of them underestimated the strength of 150 mph winds pummeling homes and buildings.”

For Rimlinger, spreading the word meant taking to social media to post about donations, organizations and general hurricane relief information. He spent many hours each day urging his account’s followers, including many UH students, to contribute to supply drives and donation campaigns.

“We, from Lake Charles, took the matter into our hands and spread the word as much as we could,” Rimlinger said. “It was at one point a cry for help.”

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