One year ago today, torrential rains began pouring down on south Louisiana. By the time the rain stopped ten days later, 20 parishes had been declared federal disaster areas, and 13 people lost their lives. Livingston Parish was one of the most devastated, with 75 percent of the homes deemed a total loss. Parish President Layton Ricks says the parish is making a good comeback.
“Total, we’re probably looking at a three to five year period before we can say we’ve completely rebounded from that flood, but progress is good,” Ricks said.
Ricks says some people are still rebuilding their homes, and some are just now getting started on the demolition. One cause of the delay could be money, as many are waiting to receive their share of the $2 billion Congress appropriated for flood recovery. Ricks says it all starts by completing the survey at restore.la.gov.
“What I hear most is ‘We didn’t really fill out the survey because we didn’t think we would get anything anyway,’” Ricks said, “That’s unfortunate. We need people to fill out those surveys whether you believe or not you’ll receive any funding from it.”
An estimated 146,000 homes were damaged in the August flood. The Lafayette Parish town of Youngsville saw most of its residents displaced because of the water. Mayor Ken Ritter says a drive through the town would give the appearance the devastation never happened, but the reality is many are a long way from recovery. With the water gone, debt is now a big concern.
“The reality is a lot of our residents didn’t have flood insurance and had to get low interest loans through the SBA, and they’ve had to take a second, sometimes third mortgage in order to make ends meet,” Ritter said.
Flood mitigation has been a big issue for affected parishes trying to protect against future disasters. Ritter says the parish raised development standards within a month of the flood. He says to this day, crews work seven days a week in drainage channels to stay a step ahead of the next rain event.
“In addition, we’re working in targeted areas that saw the greatest impact of flood damage. We’re making relatively minor adjustments to storm water ponds, but they’re yielding great results,” Ritter said.