Gov sees flooded subdivision, city saved by sandbag wall

AP News
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Posted: Aug 25, 2016 6:09 PM
Gov sees flooded subdivision, city saved by sandbag wall

LAKE ARTHUR, La. (AP) — Gov. John Bel Edwards flew across south Louisiana Thursday, surveying flood damage from a helicopter and talking with people in a city that flooded and in one where a heroic effort by volunteers and others held floodwaters back.

At a subdivision in Youngsville, near Lafayette, every third or fourth house still had a pile of flood debris on the lawn, a sign that occupants were still gutting and clearing damage. At other houses, remnants showed where similar piles had been hauled away.

"You know I pay my taxes, I worked ... I've never been late a day of my life," said Kimberly Moore, who came up to the governor as he walked down the street. But now, she said, she cannot get the help she needs.

Edwards said afterward that, like thousands of people whose homes flooded this month across 20 parishes, people in Youngsville were in areas that had never flooded and didn't have to buy flood insurance.

"The insurance was designed to make you whole after you've suffered damages," he said, but help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency cannot do that.

"Though we are bringing to bear all the FEMA relief we can and what's allowed by statute, it's not going to be enough to make people whole, and that's unfortunate," he said.

He said he will ask Congress for more money to help the recovery.

A proposal that might help flooded Louisiana homeowners is being drafted, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro told The Advocate (http://bit.ly/2bA5E9z ).

While visiting flood-destroyed public housing units for elderly and disabled people in Denham Springs, outside Baton Rouge, he was asked about allocations like those approved after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

"We are certainly ready, willing and able to support that if and when Congress decides to take that up," he said. "I know HUD has already provided some technical assistance in the drafting of that kind of legislation, but I cannot make any commitment on that right now because that is Congress's call."

In Lake Arthur, residents told Edwards about a heroic effort by hundreds of volunteers and others that started during downpours Aug. 13 and kept the Mermentau River from inundating the southwest Louisiana city of 2,700.

People came from all around southwest Louisiana to help, Monica Chapman told The Associated Press after speaking with the governor.

"They had kids — high-school kids, they had young kids, they had old people, medium-age people. ... "In the rain and everything they were still here. It was the most impressive thing I've ever seen," she said.

The sandbag wall had to be reinforced with a plywood wall. And other volunteers monitored the area 24 hours a day to pump out water that seeped through, she said.

Elsewhere in the state, about 2,500 people remained in shelters Thursday, far down from the peak of more than 11,000. There's no way to know how many thousands more are living in hotels or staying in the spare bedrooms of family and friends.

Some of the mobile homes coming to Louisiana as temporary housing were to be in Baton Rouge on Thursday, FEMA spokesman Kurt Pickering said. He didn't know when the first will be set up on blocks and strapped down.

Edwards said Wednesday that people can also get grants of up to $15,000 to quickly get houses with less catastrophic damage livable so people can stay in them while completing repairs.

The manufactured housing units will be available for people who don't live in a designated flood plain to set up in their yards as they repair houses. For those in a flood zone, the mobile homes will have to be set up at trailer parks or other commercial property still being identified.

Described as the worst disaster since Superstorm Sandy in 2012, a storm that started Aug. 12 dumped as much as 2 feet of rain over two days in some areas and was blamed for 13 deaths. Edwards estimated the flooding damaged more than 100,000 homes. About 2,600 people remained in shelters, and more than 119,000 households have registered for federal aid.

In other matters,

—Louisiana's Department of Revenue reminded taxpayers in the 20 parishes declared flood disaster areas that they can get extensions on state taxes due in August and later.

—Louisiana's largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, has relaxed some restrictions to ensure that customers affected by the recent flooding can get health care, medicine and medical supplies.

—Business and economic development groups from across south Louisiana have teamed up to launch the Louisiana Small Business Rebirth Fund, which aims to give grants to companies hurt by the historic flood.