BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — A week after Hurricane Laura hit Southwest Louisiana, the region’s FEMA administrator foresees a long recovery effort ahead.
The storm has caused 600,000 power outages and more than $9 billion in damage since making landfall in Cameron Parish last Thursday morning. It has also led to nearly two dozen deaths — either from damage, heat or generator-related carbon monoxide poisoning.
Crews have restored power to many of home and businesses, but others affected may be without electricity, clean water or other infrastructure for weeks, even months.
“There are quite a lot of needs here,” FEMA Region 6 administrator Tony Robinson — whose district includes New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana — said in an interview Wednesday. “People will be in recovery mode for quite some time.”
FEMA has opened federal disaster assistance to residents and businessowners in 16 Louisiana parishes. The agency made its most recent additions Tuesday: Grant, Jackson, Lincoln, Rapides, Sabine and Winn. (Nine parishes previously approved: Acadia, Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis, Ouachita, Vermilion and Vernon.)
Agency funds can cover temporary housing, repairs and uninsured property loss. Homeowners and renters are encouraged to consult their insurance companies first.
State officials expect the federal government will ultimately cover 90 percent of storm-related shelter costs. While President Donald Trump has placed $44 billion from a FEMA disaster fund toward coronavirus-related unemployment, Robinson contends the agency’s $25 billion for natural disasters this year leaves them in ample shape.
“If we need to address additional funding, we’ll do that,” Robinson said.
The regional administrator is also looking to ease another concern: skepticism over government’s role in hurricane recovery, which has lingered since Hurricane Katrina raised uncertainties in August 2005.
“Just in this 2021 event, we have seen much more teamwork together from the local, state and federal level,” he said.
But no matter the natural disaster, Robinson takes pride in one constant.
“There are resilient people here in Louisiana,” he said. “I know they will come back. Keep the hope, keep moving forward, and we will rebuild together.”
Homeowners and residents from the approved parishes can seek FEMA assistance at DisasterAssistance.gov or 1-800-621-FEMA.