District 13 Members Hit Hard by Storms, Recovery Still Underway

More than a thousand USW members in District 13 were forced to evacuate after Hurricane Ida battered the Gulf Coast on Aug. 30, and thousands more were left without power.

Weeks later, some of these members as well as a few USW union halls were still without power, said Larry Burchfield, assistant to D13 Director Ruben Garza.

He said the locals distributed forms for the USW’s assistance funds to members and supplied them with gift cards to help them get back on their feet.

When electric power was unavailable after hurricane Ida, the district ran fuel and supplies from south Louisiana to Belle Chasse, La.

“We are like a family down here and when there is a hurricane or other natural disaster, we don’t waste any time getting needed supplies and help to our members,” said D13 Director Ruben Garza. “These locals always help each other and look out for one another.”

Recovery slow

Recovery from hurricane Ida in southeast Louisiana is proceeding slowly because of the massive damage. The storm destroyed more than 33,000 electric poles.

To help the line crews who are spending countless hours rebuilding the region’s electric grid, Local 750 in Norco, La., and Local 5702 in Gramercy, La., fed 200-300 of them every evening in the immediate aftermath, said D13 Staff Rep. Marty Pouche.

Many chemical and petrochemical plants and oil refineries were in Ida’s path. Burchfield said about a dozen plants in the chemical sector and at least 10 oil refineries received some damage. One of those chemical facilities was Shell’s Norco, La., petrochemical plant. It began its restart on Oct. 9 with the Gas Olefins unit-1 after repairs were completed.

While the storm caused mostly minor damage in about eight to 10 USW halls, Burchfield said, the Local 750 hall in Norco, La., was one of those with severe damage. Damage to the roof caused water to leak in, and when the local examined the situation, it uncovered mold and additional leaks from a previous storm.

With the electric grid down, none of the union halls were open, so food pantries could not be set up.

Garza said the district is still working to get the names of people who were affected by the hurricane, so everyone knows who evacuated, who rode out the storms and who stayed at the plants to keep them safe.

So many storms have battered District 13 in recent years that the locals know what their union siblings need as they look to recover.

“When Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston and southeast Texas, the Mississippi locals came over and cooked for them and helped them,” Garza said. “As union members, we look out for each other. It’s what we do.”

To help D13 members recover from Ida, USW siblings can make a check out to “District 13 Council” and mail it to USW District 13 Council, P.O. Box 490, Gonzales, La. 70707.

The USW also has a disaster relief fund. To contribute, make a check out to “SCEO,” write “Disaster Relief Fund” on the memo line of the check, and send it to 60 Boulevard of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.

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