Hurricane forecasters are still monitoring the tropical disturbance called Invest 99 that’s developing near Puerto Rico. Todd Kimberlain with National Hurricane Center says they sent a plane today to get a closer look at the storm.
“The plane did find some strong winds. Those are primarily north of the islands there in the Caribbean, and the wind pattern suggested that it’s close to being a tropical cyclone, but not quite yet,” Kimberlain said.
Kimberlain says there’s a high probability that this area of low pressure can develop into Tropical Storm Hermine.
“We think that some slow development is possible during the next few days, and it could become a tropical cyclone at any time during the few days,” Kimberlain said.
Kimberlain says Invest 99 is moving in the direction towards the Bahamas. Some computer medals suggest the tropical wave could make its way into the Gulf, but Kimberlain says it’s way too early to guess where it will go.
“Some of the models have generally been showing this moving towards the Bahamas and the Florida peninsula, but beyond that time, there’s quite a bit of scatter amongst them. We certainly don’t want to give the wrong impression here because we really don’t know where it might end up,” Kimberlain said.
The City of Central was hit hard by the Great Flood of 2016, with 90% of its residents taking on water in their homes. Mayor Jr. Shelton says 9,000 out of 11,000 homes were affected. He says complete subdivisions are just devastated and now Central residents are trying to rebuild.
“It’s evidence by driving though and seeing the piles of debris that are on the roadway, it’s our citizen’s lives laying on the streets. Absolutely everything they own has been destroyed.”
Shelton says Central is a very resilient city and even after losing everything, people are still helping each other with the cleanup. But, he says his residents are working on adrenaline and he’s worried that will soon run out.
“But of course our needs are great, they’re going to be going on for months, if not years to try to recover. So, it’s going to be a long tedious process and I’m concerned about them tiring out.”
Shelton says up until today, people have had trouble signing up for FEMA assistance, mostly because they are stuck in their homes still in the cleanup process. But now he says they’ve set up a good communication line with FEMA.
“FEMA has set up a portable disaster recovery center in City Hall’s parking lot so now it’s easy for citizens in Central to come to the parking lot and actually file their claims, check on their claims.”
The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank received more than four feet of water, lost a million pounds of food, along with the majority of its equipment during the Great Flood of 2016. President and CEO Mike Manning says with the hard work and donations from the Salvation Army and other food banks, they’re back online distributing food.
“We’re even doing mobile pantries, bringing mobile drops into certain neighborhoods that were particularly devastated. To bring food right to the people who are having the problems.”
Manning says other food banks from across the country have stepped up to donate during this tough time. He says right now, agencies from Tennessee and Texas are here to help.
“Sending people, and food, and equipment to help with this. That will continue over the next several weeks as different people come and swap out for potentially two week stints.”
It’s estimated it will take more than one million dollars to clean their facility. Manning says the warehouse is now completely gutted and it will take a few weeks to dry out and sanitize the facility but they’re lucky to have multiple satellite locations.
“The Commissioner of Agriculture has been tremendous to help us by providing space in his warehouse facility for us to accept these significant tractor trailer loads of donations coming in.”
It was recently reported that Kaplan Senator Jonathan Perry wants to file legislation that would create more red tape for the “Cajun Navy” during emergencies. But Perry says that’s not the case. In an interview this morning with KPEL Radio in Lafayette, the senator set the record straight that he wants to help those volunteers.
“They’re just going to get in their boats and go, and I’m not saying they won’t. The problem is they’re breaking the law, and my intent is to remove that so they’re not breaking the law and that they can assist law enforcement,” Perry said.
Perry says he just wants to clear up the misconceptions about what he said. He says bills can’t even be filed until next year, and if and when he does file this legislation, it would not require a fee or tax to be a part of the Cajun Navy.
“It may be that something has to be done as simple as signing a waiver prior to the disaster so when you do come across law enforcement you can say, ‘Look, I signed the waiver,’” Perry said.
Perry says after WWL-TV and The Hayride wrongfully reported that he wanted to regulate the Cajun Navy, calls and emails came in attacking not only him, but his family as well. He says if anyone disagrees with what he said, that’s fine, but he wants people to get the facts straight first and leave his family out of it.
“It comes with the job. When people run for office, it’s part of it, but my 15-year-old daughter, my 11-year-old son, and my 6-year-old little girl, they didn’t get on the radio and talk about it. So leave them alone,” Perry said.
After President Obama visited Louisiana, he left with a better understanding of this 1,000 year flood and a letter from Governor John Bel Edwards asking for help. The Governor’s Communications Director, Richard Carbo, says while seeing the devastation first-hand is important, he doesn’t want to discredit what the federal government has provided to Louisiana.
“It definitely doesn’t change the amount of federal resources that we’ve had at our disposal since the governor first declared an emergency back almost two weeks ago,” Carbo said.
Carbo says Governor Edwards gave the President of a list of aid requests that includes assistance for flood victims and money to improve flood protection along the Comite River. He says Louisiana is also looking to reduce the costs the state will have to absorb for responding to the disaster.
“We feel like we have a level of destruction throughout south Louisiana that warrants a 90-10, where the state of Louisiana is only responsible for 10% of the cost,” Carbo said.
Over 115,000 south Louisiana residents have signed up federal disaster assistance. Many of these storms victims had significant damage to their home and do not have flood insurance. Carbo says the President’s visit is part of the dialogue on how to help these individuals out.
“We’re trying to figure out what the best way is to get some assistance to them as well, as opposed to just the $33,000 that would normally be available,” Carbo said.
Many are hoping that President Obama’s visit to Baton Rouge will help Louisiana get more federal funding quickly. Republican US Senator Bill Cassidy says it’s good that the visit shined a national spotlight on this disaster, but now we need to see the follow through.
“Will he work with us in Congress to get the needed funding, and will he make it a priority to for the Army Corps of Engineers to fund mitigation projects,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy says Congress will vote on additional funding for Louisiana when they convene for the fall session after Labor Day. He says what they need now is an exact dollar amount from the state.
“The federal fiscal year starts October 1. So we will be voting on these packages in September. So we need the state to come through, and I’m sure they will,” Cassidy said.
The Governor’s Office hopes to have those dollar figures by the beginning of September. Cassidy says there have been thousands of people across the country affected by natural disasters, and Congress wants to help them all.
“There’s a lot of interest in Congress of helping those who, through no fault of their own, have been affected by natural disaster or by infectious disease,” Cassidy said.
Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Chuck Carr Brown signs an emergency order that’s designed to expedite the process of cleaning up debris in flooded neighborhoods in the 20 parish area affected by the recent severe weather. DEQ spokesperson Greg Langley says the order expands the range of debris that can be accepted by certain landfills.
“This order will allow them temporality to be able to receive carpet and furniture, along with drywall and timber and things like that,” Langley said.
The emergency order ends September 30. The debris removal process has started in some areas. Langley says many people also lost appliances like refrigerators and washing machines and he explains how they will be handled.
“Normally what happens with those is they’re scavenged. What can be recycled is recycled, and the rest will just be crushed and disposed of,” Langley said.
This is the first time since Hurricane Katrina that DEQ has expanded what is allowed in landfills. Langley says they hope that if there are more places to take debris, it will speed up the cleanup process before the debris becomes a health hazard.
“It’s wet carpet and wet clothes and wet drywall, and that all produces an unpleasant odor. It can mildew and mold and things that are unhealthy,” Langley said.
First Lady Donna Edwards is working with the Louisiana School Board Association to assist flood damaged schools with repairs and supplies. LSBA Executive Director Scott Richard says at this point, about 20 schools were severely damaged during the rainstorm.
“The bulk being in East Baton Rouge Parish, Livingston Parish, Ascension Parish, Central Community School District, City of Baker, one in Vermilion Parish, and one in Lafayette Parish.”
Visit the LSBA Fund for Restoring Schools GoFundMe page to donate. Richard says mold in the schools is an issue but the biggest problem is teachers and school employees are struggling to get back up and running when it comes to an actual place to live. He says they created the campaign to help local school districts.
“Our goal is to get those dollars to the superintendent who can trickle those dollars down to school level and make sure that those kids who are returning, those teachers that are returning, have the necessary basic supplies.”
The East Baton Rouge School System and Central Community Schools are set to resume classes after September 6th, but Livingston Parish has not made a decision yet. Richard says they’ve raised right about $8,000 over the last few days. He says it’s unfortunate that we’re losing instructional time but they understand how many families have been affected.
“We want to make sure that when school does get back up and running that we are in the best position that we can be in as local school systems to provide the services that are needed for a safe learning environment.”
President Barack Obama visited a flood damaged neighborhood in East Baton Rouge parish that was inundated by flood waters. The President says he was encouraged by the heartwarming stories of neighbors helping neighbors. He says Louisiana will have all the federal support it needs for as long as it takes.
“You’re not alone on this. Even after the TV cameras leave, the whole country is going to continue to support you and help you until we get folks back in their homes and lives are rebuilt,” Obama said.
The Commander in Chief says FEMA is continuing to work around the clock to find temporary housing for those that have been displaced. He says when Congress gets back in session, they will look at how to help Louisiana long term, but the state has already received millions in federal assistance.
“As of today, federal support has reached $127 million. That’s for help like temporary rental assistance, essential home repairs, and flood insurance payments,” Obama said.
The National Hurricane Center is keeping its eye on three tropical systems in the Atlantic, and one of them has the potential of getting into the Gulf of Mexico. State climatologist Barry Keim says tropical storm Gaston is not a threat to the coastal US at this time and Fiona in the mid-Atlantic is fizzling out, but another disturbance, called Invest 99 is worth keeping an eye on.
Keim says the storm appears to be heading over Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. But he says it is possible that Invest 99 could move into the Gulf.
“It’s probably going to make a landfall somewhere between the east coast of Florida on up into the Carolinas, but some of the models are bringing it into the Gulf. So it clearly bears some watching,” Keim said.
Keim says it’s not a surprise to see the Atlantic heating up with tropical activity as we are in the peak of the hurricane season. And he says all the conditions are right for major storms to develop.
“The latter part of August and the first couple of weeks of September have been historically very, very active for south Louisiana,” Keim said.
Former Governor Kathleen Blanco understands what state and local officials are dealing with as the recovery has begun from the devastating flood that inundated thousands of homes without flood insurance. She says similar to Hurricane Katrina, we are once again dealing with a serious housing dilemma.
“I don’t know where these people are going to be able to find accommodations and you take your chances on people being forced to move out of state when something like this occurs.”
Blanco is concerned the lack of housing for flood victims could result in people moving out of the state to live with family members elsewhere. She says even those with flood insurance are struggling.
“Those who had flood insurance are sometimes finding out that flood insurance covers their structures but not the contents of the rooms that were flooded, that comes as something of a shock.”
Blanco says this will not be an overnight recovery and rebuilding will cost billions of dollars. She says it will be very hard for flood victims to repair their homes without some kind of government assistance.
“If folks don’t have access to some financial wherewithal, they will not be able to get their homes back up and we’re going to be suffering yet again, a huge housing shortage.”
Over 5,000 GoFundMe campaigns have been created to aid victims of this historic flooding raising more than $6 million. CEO of GoFundMe Rob Solomon says money is being donated from all around the country and the world. He says this is the largest U.S. natural disaster seen on the GoFundMe platform.
“This is the second largest response they’ve seen. Last year we saw $7.4 million raised in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquakes.”
There's talk that this historic flood hasn’t received the national attention it deserves. But Solomon says they've seen excellent on GoFundMe for flood victims.
“From a grassroots, people helping people perspective, we’ve never seen quite an outpouring as we’ve seen here for a U.S. natural disaster, so the response has been overwhelming.”
Solomon says First Lady Donna Edwards is helping to raise money for teachers who lost everything in their classrooms. He also says celebrities, like the Voice’s Meg Linsey, have created GoFundMe campaigns.
“You think of flooding and what it does, it ruins homes, it makes it impossible for animals shelters to stay open, schools get flooded, so there are a lot of different causes out there where the people are rallying together to help each other.”
Professionals in Louisiana’s film industry are available to help in the recovery process from the historic flood. President of Film Production Capital, Will French, says the state’s film industry is down 85%, which means carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and other skilled workers are unemployed.
“We have literally thousands of people with marketable skills and trades who are looking for work right now, and they very much want to be part of this recover and rebuilding process,” French said.
French says this is a way to help both flood victims and film industry workers. He says unless these people get work, they could leave the state to work on film projects in Georgia or California.
“What we really want is for our workers to stay here and be a part of the film industry, but they need something to do in the meantime, and this presents a very nice opportunity for local workers to help local victims,” French said.
French says it’s not just people, they have resources too. He says one catering truck on a film set can serve 5,000 meals a day, and there are currently four catering trucks sitting idle in Louisiana. He says they don’t want to see a repeat of what happened after Katrina.
“They went out and found workers from around the country because they assumed that there was not an available workforce in Louisiana, and frankly at that time, there wasn’t, but there is now,” French said.
Homes and vehicles were not the only things lost in the recent flood, as the LSU AgCenter reports hundreds of thousands of acres of crops were lost. Kurt Guidry with the AgCenter says the total value of crops lost is about $110 million.
“Rice and soybeans being the two major commodities that make up the majority of that $110 million impact, some replanting costs in terms of sugar cane, a little bit of yield loss with sweet potatoes,” Guidry said.
Guidry says soybeans crops had about $46 million in yield losses, and rice wasn’t far behind at $33 million in losses. He says it could be a while before we know exactly how much farmers lost in their yield because of the flood.
“In some instances, we’ll have to wait a week or two to see how weather conditions materialize to determine really the true exact nature of this damage,” Guidry said.
Guidry says about $3 million worth of sugarcane will have to be replanted, and it’s still not clear what the livestock losses are. He says during the flooding in north Louisiana this spring, ranchers lost upwards of 500 to 600 cattle.
“It’s perceivable that we lost that much here in the southern part of the state with this latest event,” Guidry said.
The Humane Society of Louisiana is partnering with animal shelters around the country to help rescue and find homes for animals that were left behind when the flood waters rose. HSL Executive Director, Jeff Dorson, says they are still doing animal rescues in Livingston parish.
“A lot of them are dehydrated, have a lot of bacterial infections, upper respiratory infections. So they need immediate medical care, and then we’ll give them comfortable quarters to rest and recover,” Dorson said.
Dorson says they’ve also teamed up with Livingston Parish Animal Shelter, and people can call or come by to see if their animal may have been rescued. He says they’re doing everything they can to reunite pets with their owners.
“We just stay open late so that people come to us after work or whenever they’re available, and we make it known that we may have their animal,” Dorson said.
Dorson says they are looking for people who want to volunteer or shelter animals. He says people can find out more and make monetary donations at HumaneLA.org.
“We want to spread this around all the impacted shelters. So if you give a donation, you can tell us to split it five or six ways, and we’d be happy to do so. We want to help everybody,” Dorson said.
Congressman Garret Graves says once Congress returns next month, first order of business is to address the unmet needs of the property owners whose homes were flooded and didn’t have flood insurance. He says in order for our community to recover there needs to be an assistance package to help those affected.
“This is really an extraordinary event, a 1,000 year event, and the regular recovery assistance is simply not applicable with a storm of this size.
Graves says if these flood victims end up owing more on their house than it’s worth, they could eventually be on a government poverty program. He says they are working on legislation that could help homeowners who lost everything.
“When people’s homes, businesses, schools, employers, are all flooded, it makes it very difficult to recover and we’ve got to address those core needs.”
Graves admits it may be difficult to get a financial aid package approved because 3 members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation voted against a Hurricane Sandy relief package. The congressman plans to speak to the president today about financial aid for flood victims, local businesses, schools, and flood protection.
“You need to provide protection for that Amite River Basin down below that includes that Bayou Manchac Watershed.”
President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Louisiana today to see the devastation from the flood first hand. UL-Lafayette political science professor Pearson Cross says from a political standpoint, it would have been better if the President had come sooner.
“Appeared more Johnny on the spot, so to speak, giving the impression that ‘Hey, I really do care about you guys. I’m awfully sorry about this flood,’ even if he couldn’t do anything,” Cross said.
Cross says right now the real question is if Congress will give Louisiana more federal support. He says the best thing that could come out of this visit is for Mr. Obama to convince Congress to help flood victims get back on their feet.
“There’s some record of Louisiana Congressmen not supporting recovery efforts in New Jersey after the storm Sandy. So perhaps Obama could help in that regard,” Cross said.
According to the White House the President will get a first-hand look at the devastating flooding, hear from local officials and tell the people of Louisiana that the American people will be with them as they rebuild. Cross says voters who like the President may be glad that he came. But he says other will not be as thrilled to see the Commander in Chief.
“For those people who have not supported Obama, and Louisiana’s voted against him twice, they will be saying, ‘Who needs you? Our candidate already came down. Donald Trump was here. Go back to Washington, Mr. President,’” Cross said.
It’s estimated it will take at least one year to recover from the historic floods. That’s according to LSU Economist Jim Richardson who says Livingston Parish, which was the hardest hit, will need a while to get back to some kind of normalcy.
He expects big national businesses should be back on their feet quickly, but it may take smaller businesses longer.
“You have other smaller stores that will have to work a little bit harder maybe, will not have that same ability to just draw on extra funds. They’ll have to look at different ways, could be some federal money, small business loans.”
Richardson says in the short-term, this event could boost the economy with flood victims purchasing new furniture, flooring, and sheet-rock. He says the biggest issue is housing for those who lost their homes, which cannot be solved overnight.
“The most pain and the most suffering, and people wondering what do I do? Apartments will be taken up really quickly probably, some people may be able to rent a home depending on their own resource availability.”
Richardson says many victims of the flooding did not have flood insurance, which will force some to go into debt to restore their home.
“They’re going to have to refinance their house. If it were paid for, to go back and essentially borrow money on it again. What it’s going to do is put people into a situation that they don’t expect to be in.”
The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness says volunteers are needed to help flooded homeowners get the muck out of their homes. Mike Steele with GOHSEP says until this difficult cleanup is done, people cannot start to rebuild.
“We really need to get this muck out process done to really move forward with the rest of the recovery process, and so that’s why there’s such an urgent need,” Steele said.
Steele says the damage from this flood is similar to what they saw in the New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina.
“Just seeing the piles of debris from people that have been able to start some of the cleanup was just incredible, but it really brought back a lot of memories of some of the bigger events that we’ve had to deal with,” Steele said.
Steele says people who want to help can sign up at VolunteerLouisiana.gov. He says many people whose home were damaged are elderly and not able to repair the damage.
“We really need volunteers. A lot of volunteer that may be available for past events may have been impacted by this event as well because it was such a large area,” Steele said.
State officials estimate 60-thousand homes were damaged in the Great Flood of 2016, and many displaced residents are now looking for new places to live. Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors president Tiffany Palmer says this is putting a strain on the market because there’s a low inventory of homes, especially for apartments.
“The rentals that may have been available a month ago are not because students are coming back to school at LSU and Southern,” Palmer said.
Palmer says she doesn’t expect people to flee the area completely, but many will look for homes in areas that did not flood. She says if families are able to find rentals, they could run into leasing problems, because most landlords want to sign leases for at least six months.
“People are hoping that their houses will be finished and ready to move back into in less than six months, and they’re still obligated to pay a mortgage if they have one,” Palmer said.
The already short supply of available homes has dwindled as some homes for sale may have flooded and others may have been taken off the market. Palmer says those looking to buy new homes may not be able to find their dream home, because of the limited availability.
“If buying a house is what they’re looking for, then they may have to settle. They may have to buy something and change things as they go, instead of just finding that perfect one” Palmer said.
Disaster food stamps are available to flood victims in eight parishes. The eight parishes are East Feliciana, Iberia, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, St Landry, Tangipahoa and Vermilion. Governor John Bel Edwards says eligible residents that have last names the begin with the letter A-to-D can can get their benefits at select locations today.
"If you show up on a day that doesn't correspond to the first letter of your last name, you're not going to be seen, so please be patient," Edwards said.
Tuesday, August 23: E-K
Wednesday, August 24: L-R
Thursday, August 25: S-Z
Friday, August 26: A-K applicants unable to make prior scheduled day.
Saturday, August 27: L-Z applicants unable to make prior scheduled day.
Edwards says starting next Monday, DSNAP cards will be available in Acadia, Ascension, East Baton Rouge and Lafayette parishes.
"Those applying for DSNAP must go to a specified DSNAP site for the parish where they resided during the disaster to receive benefits, if they are eligible," Edwards said.
The disaster food stamps are for those who do not receive regular food stamps and it can help individuals buy groceries due to lost income or flood damages. Edwards says to find out if you’re eligible for disaster food stamps, you must pre-register.
The website address is www.dcfs.la.gov/preregister. You can also register by phone at 1-888-LAHELP-U.