Veteran law officers Keith Merrit and Keith Longlois confirmed Wednesday Orange County had a total of 11 deaths during Tropical Storm Harvey with seven of them within the city of Orange.
County Sheriff Merritt and Captain Longlois of the Orange Police Department spoke separately with KOGT’s Gary Stelly during The Morning Show.
Longlois said two deaths involved electrocutions with the flood waters. Two people were “very ill” with diseases and did not have access to the daily medical care they needed and “succumbed.” The other three were found in cars, but it is not known whether they drowned or had medical conditions, he said.
Merritt said one was a drug overdose and there was also a suicide, plus some apparent drownings. He said justices of the peace will decide whether the deaths well be officially considered as storm related.
Both talked about the immense, widespread damage. Longlois said his experience as a police officer with a hurricane began in 1992 with the called evacuation of the county ahead of Hurricane Andrew, which ended up on the Louisiana coast. Merritt was child when his step-father rescued him by boat from their residence in the Cove neighborhood.
Both have worked in law enforcement through hurricanes Rita and Ike, plus the 2016 Sabine River flood. Harvey’s aftermath is the worst they’ve seen.
“It’s devastating to see the damage done,” Merritt said.
“I think Harvey (was the worst) as far as the totality of what I’ve seen all over the place,” Longlois said.
Longlois and Captain Robert Enmon helped direct OPD during the storm and the rescues of people from their flooded houses.
They both talked about the help the local law agencies had during the disaster. The regular Army, the Army National Guard and even Green Berets came to assist. The Cajun Navy of volunteers with boats also were in the county.
The sheriff praised the volunteers but said in the future more coordination may be needed. People who were rescued were left at places on Interstate 10 with no where to go.
The sheriff also talked about the number of helicopters landing in front of the county Emergency Operations Center on FM 1442.
The administrative offices for the sheriff’s department have been moved to the building on FM 1442 because of wet carpeting at the regular building in Orange.
Merritt said the jail never flooded or got water inside, even though rumors spread on social media. he said the county inmates had a generator working the air conditioning the jail and they got three hot meals a day.
Longlois said looting has not been a problem, but “pickers” are coming. The pickers are going through the discarded belongings of flood victims. Streets across the county are lines with huge piles of furniture, personal keepsakes, mattresses, Sheetrock, appliances and carpeting.
Some homeowners have made giant spray-painted signs asking that the belongings be left alone so insurance adjusters or FEMA inspectors can see them.
Longlois said he was walking in his neighborhood and ran into a picker from Baton Rouge. The man, though, said he had asked the owners before taking the discarded appliances.