Baton Rouge experiences loss as ‘historic flooding’ continues
At least seven people have died and 20,000 have been rescued in Louisiana
In August 2005, immediately following the devastation that Hurricane Katrina inflicted on the Gulf Coast, members of various communities in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, opened their homes and facilities to evacuees displaced by the storm. Temporary shelter was provided as well as toiletries, school supplies and clothing. Now, after severe storms on Friday caused flooding through the state capital and surrounding areas, it is now the residents of Baton Rouge who are in dire need of help.
The national media outlets covering the catastrophic event have shown dramatic rescues from rooftops and submerged cars. At least seven people have died and more than 20,000 have been rescued from the continually rising floodwaters. An additional 10,000 have been placed in shelters.
“I can’t say it’s worse than a hurricane, but it’s plenty bad,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards told reporters.
On Saturday, Edwards, who called the flooding “historic” and an “unprecedented event,” declared a state of emergency for Louisiana. The following day, President Barack Obama issued a Louisiana disaster declaration to make federal emergency funding available to affected areas.
“Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” a press release from the White House read.
A heavy storm system lingered in the Baton Rouge area beginning Friday. There were flash flood watches and warnings in effect but, unlike Hurricane Katrina, evacuation was not mandatory before rainfall exceeded the normal amounts. Baton Rouge alone received more than 20 inches of rain, equaling about two months’ worth of rainfall in a 72-hour period. The heavy downpours, coupled with overflowing rivers, added to the quickly rising waters.
Motorists trying to leave the area have been stranded and residents still in the area, AT&T customers in particular, are having trouble reaching loved ones due to lost cellphone signals. In most areas, power has yet to be restored. Nearly 30,000 residents in Baton Rouge and surrounding areas have been without power since the storms began.
So far, several community-run Red Cross shelters have been established in surrounding parishes. On Sunday, Edwards visited displaced residents at Southern University and A&M College, where the F.G. Clark Activity Center has become a temporary residence for more than 5,000 people. During the visit, Edwards spoke to residents. “The water is eventually gonna go down, and you’re gonna be able to go home,” he said.
Officials are urging residents to stay in safe areas as plans for them to return to their homes and assess damages are still being developed.