Debris piles mark the start of long road to recovery in flooded Louisiana
By Sam Karlin
BATON ROUGE, La. (Reuters) – Renee Deal still hopes to salvage the wedding photo album placed out to dry on Saturday in the carport of her flood-ravaged house in southern Louisiana.
Inside the single-story residence, pink insulation peeked out of a wall stripped down to the nail studs in what she once called her “Mardi Gras” room, filled with memorabilia from the region’s famed festivals.
Ruined furniture, bedding and appliances formed a towering pile at her curb, and at the other houses on her block. It gives her small relief that her neighborhood will be among the first to see debris picked up next week, as the hard-hit capital city of Baton Rouge switches from search-and-recovery to rebuilding.
“I’d like it to be picked up as soon as possible,” said Deal, 53, pointing to a few boxes on the muddy cement floors in her formerly carpeted living room. “Here’s my life, right here.”
Some 102,000 Louisiana residents have registered for federal emergency assistance over the state’s record floods, called the worst natural disaster in the United States since Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Homeowners already are approved for $30 million in federal aid, Richard Carbo, the governor’s communications chief, said on Twitter on Saturday.
Yet more than 3,500 people were still sleeping in shelters on Friday, he said, about a week after parts of the state were deluged with more than 2-1/2 feet (76 cm) of rainfall.
The floods killed at least 13 people and damaged some 60,000 homes, according to state figures. U.S. President Barack Obama plans to visit Baton Rouge on Tuesday to see the damage first-hand.
As entire communities now gut out their homes, weather forecasters warned that the weekend could see more rainfall through Monday, which could trigger some localized flooding.
“Some places could get some heavier downpours of rain,” said Mike Shields, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in New Orleans, which was not devastated like much of the southern state.
“And it wouldn’t take a lot of rain to cause some flooding because the ground is so saturated, he noted.
The National Weather Service reported that nearly 26 inches (66 cm) of rain have fallen at the Baton Rouge airport this month, making August the wettest on record since 1893.
(Writing by Letitia Stein; Editing by Marguerita Choy)