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Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards Seeks $2.6 billion in Federal Aid for March and August Floods

March and August flooding in Louisiana damaged some 159,000 homes. Officials estimate the August floods in southern Louisiana alone caused $8.7 billion worth in damages.


Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is lobbying the federal government for relief money....not for still open reconstruction projects connected with the 2005 twin disasters of Hurricane Katrina and Rita, but for the March and August flooding of 2016.

The governor is asking for $2.6 billion in federal aid dollars. Fifty-six of the 64 parishes in the state were declared disaster areas this year. The March floods were in northern Louisiana and damaged 29,000 homes; the August flooding in southern Louisiana damaged 130,000 homes and killed 13 people. The governor believes the $8.7 billion damage figure might be "low," because it does not include public infrastructure damage to several roads, bridges and schools. Louisiana awaits $420 million in flood recovery money from the feds in October, which the governor calls a "down payment" on the flood relief package.

How does this compare with Hurricane Katrina relief packages? Last August on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katarina, officials estimated that federal spending on Katrina damages totaled more than $120 billion, with about $76 billion going to Louisiana projects, an amount three times the annual budge of Louisiana.

New Orleans "only" experienced Category 1 winds from Katrina. The center of the storm passed southeast of the city and over St. Tammany Parish with Category 3 force winds on August 29, 2005. The storm surge in that parish was estimated at 16 feet, and devastated 57 miles of coastline, and killed 1,833 people along the Gulf Coast. New Orleans would have been "fine," except the levees at Lake Pontchartrain broke and flooded 80 percent of the city; near the lake, waters were as deep as 10 feet. According to The Times-Picayune, Katrina's storm surge caused approximately 23 breaches in drainage canal and navigational canal levees and floodwalls, failures that have been judged among the worst engineering disasters in U.S. history.

Seventy percent of housing in New Orleans had flood damage. In 2000, the New Orleans population was 484,674. By mid-2006, over half the population had left the city. As of July 2014, the population had risen to 384,320.

While New Orleans gets most of the attention and press, it's important to reiterate that Katrina caused an estimated $151 billion in damage in nine states. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the scientific agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, deems Katrina the costliest disaster in U.S. history.

And don't forget Hurricane Rita, which rolled through less than a month after Katrina. Rita caused severe flooding and wind damage in southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas.

As seen in LASN magazine, October 2016.

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June 18, 2019, 6:46 pm PDT

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