As of Friday evening, Louisiana officials have reported 10 deaths in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, but the category 4 storm is only responsible for half of them.
Friday morning, search and rescue crews discovered a family of five dead of carbon monoxide poisoning, Lake Charles Fire Chief Shawn Caldwell said during a briefing posted to YouTube.
The family had sheltered together during the storm, and were running a generator inside of an attached garage, with the door at least partially open, according to Caldwell. Enough of the odorless fumes seeped in to kill the whole family.
“It’s troubling, it’s scary,” Caldwell said, warning that even with Laura gone, there’s plenty of reason for first responders to worry, and for families to heed his advice.
With much of Louisiana’s infrastructure damaged or outright destroyed, generators will likely see a lot of use in the days ahead.
“Don’t let a generator cost your life,” Caldwell said during the briefing. Some are tempted to keep it close by, worried it will “run off.” It isn’t worth the risk.
Keep it away from the house, he said.
“Chain it to a tree if there’s still one left in the yard.”
“People are running generators indoors or in very poorly ventilated areas and that is just an ultra hazardous thing to do, so I’m encouraging everybody that until the lights come back on, please don’t do that,” Edwards said at a news conference.
In addition to the family, four Louisianans have died after trees smashed into their homes, and at least one person drowned, Edwards said. Officials expect to uncover more fatalities as searches continue.
In Texas, generator fumes killed three shrimpers and hospitalized six taking cover from Laura in a Port Arthur game room, McClatchy News reported.
The deaths followed a separate Thursday incident in Texas that sent 17 people to the hospital for treatment. Again, carbon monoxide fumes from a poorly placed generator were to blame.
Besides being odorless, carbon monoxide is colorless and tasteless, “making it nearly impossible to detect before it’s too late,” the Port Arthur Police Department in Texas cautioned on Facebook.
“It is never an option to run a generator in an enclosed or partially enclosed structure, including living spaces.”