Officials in Baton Rouge, LA, and surrounding areas are currently assessing the damage wrought by recent widespread flooding. As waters slowly recede, the Red Cross says it’s the worst natural disaster in the U.S. since Superstorm Sandy slammed into the East Coast in 2012. Over the weekend, the number of damaged homes reached 60,000, with over 102,000 people registering for FEMA assistance, the most in one week since Sandy.
“Thousands of people in Louisiana have lost everything they own and need our help now,” Brad Kieserman, vice president of disaster services operations and logistics for the Red Cross, told CNN. “This disaster is the worst to hit the United States since Superstorm Sandy, and we anticipate it will cost at least $30 million, a number which may grow as we learn more about the scope and magnitude of the devastation.”
Torrential rains fell on Baton Rouge and surrounding areas starting Thursday, August 11. Just east of the city, residents were hit with more than 17 inches of precipitation between midnight and 3pm on the 12th, when Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency for all of Louisiana.
“It is devastation, absolute devastation,” said Stacey Rand of the Louisiana fire marshal’s office to the Associated Press. “I mean, these homes, there are areas that have not flooded. They never flood and they flooded. It caught everyone by surprise.”
Inclement weather continued this past weekend, with thunderstorms and an additional few inches of rain. The flooding is blamed for at least 13 deaths across the state, and shelters are now housing an estimated 2,800 people, according to the latest figures from the Department of Children and Family Services.
As of Monday August 22, flood waters were still high enough in certain areas to keep vehicles submerged, as people inspected home damage by rowboat.
In Baton Rouge, Maureen Kahl of The Creative Touch Inc. (asi/170981), says the devastation is unlike anything she’s ever seen. “It’s massive destruction,” she told Counselor. “Thirty-two parishes were affected, 12 of which were classified as National Disaster Areas. The water was so strong it swept people away. People were stranded on the interstate for hours because it was closed both ways and the ramps had about three to five feet of water on them. Everything happened so fast.”
Daniel Paline’s company Five Star Printing and Signs (asi/194763) is located in hard-hit Denham Springs, LA, about 15 miles east of downtown Baton Rouge. “My shop was totally destroyed,” he told Counselor. “Every piece of equipment was under five feet of silted river water. It’s mud, rust and carnage. My entire town was underwater and many of us are under-insured or not insured at all. But we will return. We’re bringing in new equipment soon and we have affiliate shops that are helping us fulfill our orders.”
In Livingston Parish, reports CNN, over 31” of rain fell in 15 hours. State superintendent of schools John White said 22 of the state’s public schools are so damaged that they will not be able to open for the start of school next week.