REMNANTS OF HURRICANE RITA: Crying Eagle no more

July 13, 2010 at 8:22 pm

*published July 13, 2010
FEMA dismantles scattered fragments of village
BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

One of the few remaining steps frames a front-end loader that is removing utilities from Crying Eagle Village on Monday. BY KAREN WINK

Contractors with the Federal Emergency Management Agency spent Monday dismantling remnants of Crying Eagle Village off Swift Plant Road.

Most of the trailers were taken away in mid-2009, and contractors are now removing fire hydrants, wiring, plumbing, poles and wood staircases.

Officials hope to lease the property to an industrial company, said Mike Dees, legal council for the Port of Lake Charles, owner of the land.

He said FEMA’s lease ended in February but that federal officials requested an extension so they could bring in contractors to remove the improvements.

Three hundred FEMA mobile homes fill the Crying Eagle Village in 2006. AMERICAN PRESS ARCHIVES

Dees said he couldn’t speak on the timing of the removal process, saying the decision was FEMA’s.

The park, built in May 2006, had 300 mobile homes, 200 travel trailers and at its peak housed about 1,000 people who were displaced by Hurricane Rita.

It was built by contractor Fluor Corp. and was managed by FEMA for most of its nearly three-year history. It was turned over to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development before closing at the end of 2008.

When the park opened, officials said it would be occupied for no longer than 18 months.
Problems abounded during the park’s existence.

Residents of Crying Eagle Village — along with others in FEMA trailers across the Gulf Coast — claimed they were made sick by formaldehyde in the trailers.

The issues came to light in July 2007 when members of Congress learned that FEMA officials had suppressed health warnings about formaldehyde.

Residents reported strange rashes, stomach problems, nosebleeds and headaches they believed to be caused by the chemical.

The tightly packed trailer park also proved to be a major problem for the Lake Charles Police Department.

Records show officers received 200-400 called-in complaints each year, with most being for fighting, burglary, theft and drugs.

The park had three civilian security officers who patrolled the grounds.

In March 2008, FEMA began charging residents still living in the park and offered a rental assistance program to help them find apartments.

By August 2008, about 100 people remained. The park was emptied by the end of the year.

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