Propane industry rallies to aid Louisiana flood victims

September 25, 2016 By    
Photo courtesy of Marica Vlahos

Photo courtesy of Marica Vlahos

When times are tough, propane industry members look out for one another.

We hear that sentiment often when circumstances outside our control impact lives and businesses. That’s when others step up to help. I often wonder whether other industries feel that same closeness.

The latest example originates in southern Louisiana, which was ravaged by devastating floods last month. Some have described the impact on a level of “Biblical proportions,” labeling it the worst U.S. natural disaster since Superstorm Sandy in 2012. More than 2 ft. of rain fell in some parts of the state over several days, with the highest amount measured at 31.4 in.

Photo courtesy of Cajun Propane

Photo courtesy of Cajun Propane

“People need to realize that while this storm has not had the death toll or economic damage of Hurricane Katrina [in 2005], the vast amount of flooding is similar,” says Randy Hayden, executive director of the Louisiana Propane Gas Association (LPGA). “It is unprecedented to have 20 to 30 in. of rain fall in one area over a two-day period. Many areas outside of the 100-year floodplain flooded. Homes that had stayed dry during some of the world’s most devastating hurricanes were suddenly under water.”

The Red Cross had estimated flood damage at $30 million, but what the storm has done to the people there is so much more costly.

“This intense storm wasn’t given a name, but it affected as many as 110,000 homes in Louisiana and has changed countless lives forever,” says Brad Kieserman of the Red Cross.

While it was too early for Hayden to estimate the damage to the propane industry and its customers, the greatest concern centered on employees.

Marica Vlahos, an account executive at LPGA, evacuated her home due to rising floodwaters, as the streets in her neighborhood became impassable.

“I don’t think anyone in our area has ever seen anything like this,” she says. “Living in Louisiana, you get used to experiencing weather that comes with hurricanes and tropical storms, but this is not something we could have prepared for or known was coming. I’ve lived in Louisiana all of my life, and the only thing that has come close to what I witnessed here was when the levies broke during Hurricane Katrina. I was not in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, but people being rescued by boat and off of rooftops during our recent flood resembled images of what happened over a decade ago during Katrina in New Orleans.”

Vlahos eventually returned to a dry house, but others weren’t as fortunate.

“Homes are underwater, schools are flooded; food, water, electricity and the basics of life are often unavailable,” Hayden says. “These valuable employees are trying to put their lives back together, and finding time to work in these trying and desperate times is often a low priority.”

Hayden says LP gas companies from north Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama have offered propane and personnel. He’s also heard of heroic actions by industry leaders “who have gone the extra mile” to see that first responders, nursing homes, cell towers and others are getting the services they need.

When Louisiana state Rep. Jack Montoucet requested forklift fuel at a relief station in Crowley, Louisiana, Cajun Propane happily donated propane to help the community.

“Perhaps more than any other part of the country, south Louisiana has an unusual family bond,” Hayden says. “Its people are strong, proud, compassionate and giving. The LP gas industry across America is part of that family. The prayers, outreach and notes of encouragement and concern have confirmed the industry’s heart.”

Brian Richesson

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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