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NEW ORLEANS— It’s being called the “Great Flood” of 2016, and it’s not over. The images over Louisiana’s capital city, located about an hour from New Orleans, are reminiscent of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that hit the Gulf Coast over a decade ago. A hurricane without the winds is how residents of Baton Rouge are describing the catastrophic storm system that produced more than two feet of rain within 48 hours causing over a dozen deaths and at least 40,000 damaged homes. At Final Call presstime, clean-up efforts continue as residents, city officials and volunteers assess damage and move toward what will be a daunting task of recovery and repairs as waters slowly recede.
Over 30,000 people had to be rescued in parts of South Louisiana from massive, record-breaking flooding beginning Friday, Aug. 12, with heavy downpours that continued throughout the weekend.
To some New Orleaneans, this “historic flood event” is all too familiar. Nothing but rooftops are visible in some areas of the city. Loss of cell phone services prevented many residents from contacting their loved ones as 911 which was so inundated with calls, it slowed down emergency response efforts. Shelters were over-crowded; motorists were stranded on interstates in gridlocked traffic, and boats became the main mode of transportation after approximately 100 roads were closed throughout the state. And to add insult to injury, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) noted that an estimated 80 percent of Louisiana residents don’t have flood insurance, leaving some folks questioning how this can happen again to people who suffered loss in Hurricane Katrina?
Insurance commissioner Jim Donelon said, “People in many of the areas that remain underwater weren’t considered in a high-risk flooding area and weren’t required to carry flood insurance by their mortgage lenders. Also, if a home is paid off, flood insurance even in a high-risk area is at the discretion of the homeowner.”
After Gov. John Bel Edwards traveled to affected areas and saw the severity of the situation, he requested that President Barack Obama issue a disaster declaration for the entire state of Louisiana, Aug.14. Twenty parishes have been declared disaster areas with possibly more as recovery efforts are underway. Some of the hardest hit areas include, East Baton Rouge, Livingston, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa parishes.
CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam said that Baton Rouge received two months’ worth of rain in one day. He explained that on average, 5.82 inches of rain falls in August and twice that fell in Baton Rouge in a 24-hour period.