Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Louisiana flooding is the country’s ‘worst natural disaster’ since Hurricane Sandy, Red Cross says

[Washington Post] Five days into this disaster, adrenaline is giving way to exhaustion and — for many of those who left their homes amid rising water — a constant, churning anxiety about the future.
Thousands are still holed up in shelters or at friends’ houses on high ground, relying on Facebook videos and word-of-mouth for an answer to the question on everyone’s tongues: How bad is the damage?
“We still don’t know the state of our house,” said Justin Sylvest, 21, who lives with his girlfriend and their 11-month-old in Denham Springs, a town east of Baton Rouge that was among the hardest hit.
The three of them had been staying since Sunday at an emergency shelter on the vast grounds of the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, southeast of Baton Rouge. Sylvest said the shelter had provided everything his family needed, starting with formula for the baby and clean clothes.
But a shelter’s still a shelter, a gymnasium lined with cots with no personal space or guaranteed quiet — all the more difficult for a young father who isn’t sure whether his family has a place to live or a way to pay the bills. He said he hadn’t slept much.
“I don’t even know when I’ll be able to go to work,” Sylvest said, taking a drag on a cigarette. “It’s going to be a lot getting back to normal.”
After two feet of rain began falling Thursday night, water rose quickly in Baton Rouge and then migrated east and south, leaving a vast swath of damage. At least 40,000 homes have been damaged, according to Gov. John Bel Edwards (D). The death toll has risen to 13.
Roads remain flooded and closed, while schools, businesses and government offices have been shut down for days. The country has not seen a natural disaster this bad since 2012, when Hurricane Sandy pummeled the East Coast, according to the American Red Cross.
“The current flooding in Louisiana is the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Superstorm Sandy,” Brad Kieserman, vice president for disaster services operations and logistics for the Red Cross, said in a statement. “The Red Cross is mounting a massive relief operation, which we anticipate will cost at least $30 million and that number may grow as we learn more about the scope and magnitude of the devastation.” Read More