The Latest: Louisiana residents turn out for Obama visit

AP News
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Posted: Aug 23, 2016 4:31 PM
The Latest: Louisiana residents turn out for Obama visit

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Latest on Louisiana Flooding (all times local):

3:30 p.m.

People turned out along the roadside in Zachary to see President Barack Obama's motorcade during his tour of Louisiana's flood damage.

Jazz Matthews saw her house inundated by flooding in the nearby town of Central, and now it's unliveable. Standing roadside to glimpse Obama, she dismissed criticism that the visit came too late.

Gesturing to the police officers assembled for his motorcade, Matthews noted it takes a huge amount of resources for a presidential visit. "I don't think it's too late. And for me it's not that important honestly because I'm looking at this and all that it takes for him to come," she said.

For Matthews, the most important thing was that federal disaster resources be made available quickly

Michelle Singleton Dyer, a Zachary resident, didn't have flood damage to her home but four of her siblings and her nephew saw their houses destroyed. She's been working closely with her church in Baton Rouge to give aid to those in need. On Tuesday she stood by the side of the road in Zachary, carrying the American flag that she usually carries in her car and waving it as the president drove by.

"The president's visit here today is just right on time," she said. "What we are doing now, we are only in the beginning stages of cleaning up."

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3:15 p.m.

Gerard Landry, mayor of the town of Denham Springs, was checking on retailers in the town's antiques district Tuesday morning. He said about 2,900 homes had at least 18 inches of water inside.

He estimated about 4000 of the town's 4,200 residences had some type of damage. When asked about the president's visit he said it has its benefits although he's been frustrated by what he describes as a slow government response.

"That's fine. All these public officials need to see how bad the devastation is so that we can get the government mobilized to come out and give us as much assistance as we can. I have gone on the record since day one. I think they have been much too slow," Landry said. "It's just disheartening to see that it takes that long."

The mayor said there's benefit to seeing something with your own eyes instead of just on television.

"I think we kind of get insulated when we see it on tv. Maybe it doesn't look as bad as it sounds. It's devastating," he said. "Everybody's life is on the side of the road."

But at the "Seldom Seen" antiques store in Denham Springs, the thought of the president coming to visit was infuriating to Barbara Kabb. She was helping clean out the store Tuesday morning where she had two booths. Outside piles of broken chairs, shredded insulation, and dressers with drawers missing were piled near the curb for garbage pickup.

"I think he ought to go back on vacation," said Kabb, a Baton Rouge resident. "He doesn't care nothing about the South."

"He ain't got time. He's got to go out to Martha's Vineyard and spend a bunch of money," Kabb said. "At least Trump came down here."

2:50 p.m.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards had a long list of disaster response requests for President Barack Obama during his visit to Edwards' flood-ravaged state.

The Democratic governor asked Obama on Tuesday to reduce Louisiana's share of the response costs from 25 percent to 10 percent. He's also asking that the costs of the Louisiana National Guard's response be fully covered by the federal government.

Edwards wants Obama to seek disaster block grant aid for the state from Congress and to provide federal funding for a regional flood protection project that has languished for years.

In a letter outlining his requests, the governor estimated flooding has ravaged "well over 100,000 homes" across south Louisiana — on top of 29,000 homes that received damage in a March flood in northern parts of the state.

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1:35 p.m.

The sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish has suspended a curfew imposed after his area was hit hard by catastrophic flooding.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/2bBNCCP ) that Sheriff Sid Gautreaux announced the suspension of the 10 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew in a statement Tuesday.

He had said the curfew was imposed to let first responders safely do their jobs and allow residents to safely survey their damage and recover what they could. Since the curfew went into effect a week ago, at least 19 people have been arrested on looting charges.

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1:05 p.m.

President Barack Obama says the nation is "heartbroken" by the loss of life during recent flooding in Louisiana.

Obama is speaking in East Baton Rouge Parish as he tours flood damage in Louisiana.

Obama says people's lives have been upended by the flooding. He notes that families have lost homes and possessions while local businesses have suffered.

The president says it's not just about property damage. He says it's also about "people's roots."

Obama says he wants Louisianans to know they're not alone in recovering from the flood, even after the news cameras leave. He says the government will keep helping until people are back in their homes and their lives are rebuilt.

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12:50 p.m.

Pop star Britney Spears is giving the clothes off her back to raise money for the Red Cross to benefit victims of widespread flooding in her home state of Louisiana.

Spears, who is from Kentwood, Louisiana, tweeted out links Tuesday to a fundraising site offering $10 raffle tickets to win an outfit from her upcoming performance on Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards or win a trip to New York to see her at the show in person.

More than 115,000 people across south Louisiana have signed up for federal disaster assistance after the catastrophic flooding that began Aug. 12. At least 13 deaths have been attributed to the flooding.

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Visit www.crowdrise.com/britneyforlouisiana/ for more information.

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12:04 p.m.

President Barack Obama has arrived in Louisiana's capital city where he'll get a first-hand view of the damage from flooding that killed 13 people and forced thousands from their homes.

Obama was greeted Tuesday at Baton Rouge's airport by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser and the state's U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and David Vitter.

The White House has released few details about Obama's brief trip. He's expected to tour one of the many neighborhoods in southern Louisiana devastated by the flooding caused by more than 20 inches of rain in some communities over a three-day period.

The flooding damaged more than 60,000 homes and forced thousands to seek temporary housing, according to estimates. More than 115,000 people across south Louisiana have signed up for federal disaster assistance.

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11:15 a.m.

More than 115,000 people across south Louisiana have signed up for federal disaster assistance after the catastrophic flooding.

State officials say $20 million in FEMA homeowner assistance had been distributed as of Tuesday.

A storm that began Aug. 12 dumped as much as 2 feet of rain in some areas over 48 hours. At least 13 deaths have been attributed to the flooding, and more than 60,000 homes were damaged by the storm. About 2,500 people remained in shelters Tuesday.

Federal and Louisiana authorities say more than 26,000 people have filed flood insurance claims for flooding damage.

The state is urging people to help those with damage muck out their homes. Volunteers can register at www.VolunteerLouisiana.gov.

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7:50 a.m.

Debris removal crews are out on the streets with 20 trucks in Baton Rouge and others in Livingston Parish to begin hauling away ruined furniture, drywall and other damaged possessions piled along streets after last week's flooding.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/2bRBxeS) that East Baton Rouge Parish's debris removal contractor, DRC Emergency Services, expects that it will take around 90 days to make three sweeps through neighborhoods to collect debris.

Their preliminary estimate is that the city-parish could have 325,000 to 400,000 cubic yards of debris and that they picked up 6,000 cubic yards by Monday afternoon.

DRC Vice President Mark Stafford estimated that his workers could pick up 20,000 cubic yards this week. FEMA is expected to reimburse the local officials 75 percent of the costs of debris pickup and other cleanup and rebuilding.

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7:40 a.m.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is opening additional disaster recovery centers in the Baton Rouge area.

New centers will open Tuesday in Gonzales, Baton Rouge and Zachary to help Louisiana flood survivors. The centers will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.

Representatives from the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, FEMA, the Small Business Administration, volunteer groups and other agencies are at the center to answer questions about disaster assistance and low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters and businesses.

Low-interest disaster loans from the SBA are available for businesses of all sizes including landlords, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters.

So far, more than 106,000 people have registered for federal disaster aid.