Louisiana Floods – Governor Says “Housing Will Be a Major Issue” After 40,000 Homes Damaged

In a press conference of 18 August, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said that, with over 40,000 homes impacted by the floods, “housing will be a major issue”.

Local officials in Livingston Parish said that around 75% of homes there were “a total loss”.

With potentially so many homes uninhabitable – some in the short-term, some may take longer to repair or  be beyond repair – the 20 affected parishes of Louisiana could be facing a housing crisis.

Edwards said the state is still looking at all options for temporary housing, including manufactured housing units.

From Response to Recovery

Although some flooding remains, the situation in now stable enough for state and federal officials to start planning what comes next. “We are on our way from response to recovery”, the governor said.

FEMA teams are starting to make assessments and 86,500 have registered for disaster assistance so far.

However, flood response efforts continue. The governor added, “We are not out of the woods, this is an ongoing event. We still have flood waters, record flood waters in some places.”

The number of fatalities as a result of the floods now stands at 13. Over 30,000 flood rescues have been carried out. As many as 1,400 pets have been rescued.

Over 4,000 people remain in shelters. Although this figure changes constantly, it is showing a downward trend, certainly from the 11,000 during the peak of the floods. A list of shelters for those evacuated can be found here.

Yesterday, Louisiana National Guard reported that more than 3,880 guardsmen are still engaged in flood response efforts, including rescues, evacuations, security patrols, engineering missions, and commodities distribution.

To date, the Louisiana National Guard (LANG) has rescued over 19,040 citizens and 2,660 pets. The LANG has issued more than 76,930 ready meals; 389,015 bottles of water; 465 tarps; and 961,500 sandbags. The LANG also issued over 2,200 cots and 1,700 blankets for shelter support.

Over the course of these operations, Louisiana Guardsmen have supported local, state, and federal agencies with more than 280 high-water vehicles, 55 boats, 11 Bridge Erection Boats, and 9 helicopters.

Returning to a Flooded Home

Louisiana officials are now concerned that thousands of families have to return to a flood damaged home, which poses numerous potential dangers including unstable structures, electrocution, escaped gas, contaminated flood waters and stray wild animals.

Not only that, but householders now face a huge clean up task, segregating debris and waste and cleaning contaminated areas in an attempt to avoid mold infestation.  People will also need to document losses for insurance or FEMA claims.

Fact Sheet

Emergency Louisiana have issued a helpful fact sheet for all those returning to a flooded home, the Flood Re-entry Fact Sheet, which can be found here (PDF).

Flooded areas of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are shown Aug. 15, 2016. To date, Coast Guard crews have rescued more than 195 people, assisted more than 2,902 people in distress and rescued 26 pets. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake
Flooded areas of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are shown Aug. 15, 2016. To date, Coast Guard crews have rescued more than 195 people, assisted more than 2,902 people in distress and rescued 26 pets. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake

Rivers Still in Flood

The Mermentau River at Mermentau is still at major flood stage, with levels standing at 10.82 feet. Levels aren’t expected to drop below the major flood stage (8 feet ) until 23 August.

The Vermilion River at Lafayette, Surrey Street, is at 17.19 feet, also above major flood stage of 16 feet and is expected to remain at or above major flood stage until 22 August.

At Lake Martin Road, the Vermilion is at 14.88 feet, still above major flood stage of 14 feet and showing no signs of falling.

Levels of the Amite River have fallen in most areas, but remain at moderate flood stage at 4 locations: Highway 22 near Maurepas, French Settlement, Port Vincent and Bayou Manchac Point. The river is currently showing a falling trend in all 4 locations.

Media Attention

The Louisiana Governor said that he believes the lack of media attention has led to fewer donations for flood victims via organisations such as the Red Cross.

Mainstream media began reporting the disaster several days after the floods first hit. Even then, many stories focused on stray alligators, floating caskets or an anti-gay pastor, rather than the plight of the thousands of people who have seen their homes damaged or destroyed.


Overview of the Louisiana Flood Situation

  • More than 30,000 people have been rescued from homes or vehicles
  • Currently 4,000 people are currently staying in shelters (down from 11,000)
  • 13 flood related deaths have been confirmed
  • An estimated 40,000 houses have been damaged by the floods
  • 86,500 have registered for federal disaster assistance
  • At one point, over 200 roads wer closed
  • 1,400 bridges need to be inspected before they are reopened to traffic
  • River levels have broken records in at least 11 different locations
  • Levels of the Amite River at Magnolia reached almost 7 feet (2.13 metres) higher than previous record
  • At least 20 locations in Louisiana recorded more than 1 foot (300 mm) of rain in 72 hours
  • Louisiana was hit by 6.9 trillion gallons of rain – enough to fill 10.4 million Olympic pools

 

Where to Donate

People can donate by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word LAFLOODS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recovery from these disasters.

A comprehensive list of where to donate can be found at the website of New Orleans news organisation, NOLA, here.

Volunteer to Help

If you are interested in volunteering to help, officials suggest visiting these websites to find out where help is needed:

Photos of the Louisiana Floods, August 2016