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  • Comparing Hurricane Katrina with the Louisiana Flood

    Hurricane Katrina - Flooding in Venice, LA - Louisiana Flood Flooding in Venice, LA from Hurricane Katrina

    Today, exactly 11 years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and parts of the Gulf Coast, Louisiana residents are cleaning up from another storm that was far worse than everyone expected.

    At least 100,000 homes were affected in a once-in-1,000-year flood. At least 13 people were killed. Emergency managers said it was the most devastating natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

    The Louisiana floods have many parallels with Hurricane Katrina.

    First, both were worse than expected.

    Hurricane Katrina was expected to be dangerous. The day before it hit, August 28, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin ordered the city’s first-ever mandatory evacuation. An estimated 80 percent of the New Orleans metro area evacuated. However, no one, including the Army Corps of Engineers who built the city’s levee system, expected nearly every levee to fail.

    The storm that slammed southeast Louisiana was an easterly wave, a “hurricane without the winds,” as Barry Keim, Louisiana State Climatologist, told Popular Science.

    The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for the area on August 10, saying up to 10 inches was possible.

    That was a slight understatement. In two days, NWS gauges measured 21.86 inches of rain.

    Louisiana Flood - via NPR Louisiana Flood, 2016 - via NPR

    “If this was a tropical storm or a hurricane that actually had a National Hurricane Center name attached to it, it probably would have gotten a whole lot more attention as it approached over here," Keim told Popular Science.

    In fact, the New York Times later apologized for its delayed interest in the flooding.

    Second, not that many people had flood insurance. Flooding is usually not covered by regular homeowner’s insurance but must be bought separately.

    Before Hurricane Katrina, there were about 360,000 flood insurance policies in Louisiana, according to Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon in a story by the Shreveport Times. After Katrina, the number of policies jumped to 490,000 in 2008. It’s at 450,000 now, which only represents about 21 percent of homes.

    About 75 percent of the people whose homes were damaged in the flood didn’t have flood insurance.  Almost half of the people who live in a high risk area in Louisiana have flood insurance, according to FEMA, but only 12 percent outside the high risk zone have it. A high risk zone is defined by the National Flood Insurance Program as an area with at least a 1 in 4 chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage. About a third of homes that flood in Louisiana every year are outside the high risk flood zone, David LaCombe of UDB Insurance in Alexandria told the Shreveport Times.

    When the president declares a major disaster, as he did for Louisiana, the Federal Emergency Management Agency provides a maximum of $33,000 per household for disaster relief.

    “Even if you only have 3 or 4 inches of water in your home, it could still cost you $40,000 to $50,000 to replace the sheet rock, replace the flooring and all that sort of stuff,” LaCombe told the Shreveport Times.

    Louisiana Flood Only 25% of flood-damaged homes were covered by flood insurance - Image via Insurance Journal

    “I think everyone in Louisiana should have flood insurance,” Melissa Becker, assistant director and flood-plain manager for the Rapides Area Planning Commission, told the Shreveport Times.

    After Hurricane Katrina, many businesses and government entities struggled to reach evacuated and missing employees. The hurricane displaced more than a million people, the largest such migration in U.S. history. Infrastructure was destroyed. Total damage cost $108 billion.

    In Louisiana’s flooded area, 22 school districts closed, according to the Washington Post. Some schools are flooded, but the greater problem is finding school personnel. One district superintendent was living in a shelter on August 21, and an estimated 4,000 employees were displaced by the flooding. As of August 22, 2,800 people were still living in shelters in the Baton Rouge area alone.

    We’re just entering the height of Atlantic hurricane season. Right now, Hurricane Gaston is churning about 575 miles east southeast of Bermuda, but is expected to weaken without making landfall anywhere.

    However, two tropical depressions, which could possibly organize into tropical storms, formed Sunday. One is about 60 miles south of Key West, Fla., and is expected to hit Florida and move into the Gulf of Mexico. Another, which meteorologists have been following for several days, formed in the Atlantic west of Bermuda and is on track to bring heavy rain to North Carolina.

    The best thing anyone can do before a hurricane is prepare emergency kits and financial information, have flood insurance and be able to evacuate.

    “You’re still going to have the homes under water," Keim told Popular Science. "You can’t move the homes, but you can move the people.”

     

    Hurricane_Blog_Banner - Louisiana Flood

  • Louisiana Flood Breaks Records, Displaces Thousands

    The Southern states have been getting pummeled by rain, causing massive flooding and endangering countless thousands.

     

    Louisiana

    Louisiana Flood - via USA Today Louisiana Flood - via USA Today

    Over 40,000 homes have been affected by the flooding in Louisiana. More than 11,000 people are now homeless in the state. At least nine people are dead. And now, it seems like things will only get worse before they improve.

    More rain is expected this week, according to a local report, which could make the flooding situation even worse. Although the rivers have started to fall in their water levels, the Amite River reached a high of 46.2 feet, rising above the 29-foot flood stage, beating out its previous record by 6 feet in one area. More rain would certainly make things unbearable.

    These floods came from days of constant, torrential rain. A federal emergency was declared, and now 10,000 people are in shelters. Since the flooding began, over 30,000 people have been rescued from the floods.

    As flood waters continue downstream, worry grows for areas south of Baton Rouge. With so much rain, it could push the floods further past that area, creating more problems for those downstream.

    Aside from the Louisiana flood, which has received the more brunt of damage and high waters, a few other states are experiencing their own woes.

     

    Mississippi

    Flash flooding did some major damage to some locations in Mississippi, including the town of Crosby, where water washed away one man’s home. Dozens of people have been displaced, with homes now drenched in three feet of water.

     

    Texas

    But it’s not just Louisiana that’s being threatened by floods. Texas has also been experiencing heavy rainfall. Fortunately, no flooding has yet been reported, although flash flooding could be a major issue.

     

    Flooding is an issue to all states, so no matter where you live, check out your flood risk at floodsmart.gov and take the necessary precautions to countering floods. And remember, if you do plan on getting flood insurance, most plans will take 30 days to come in effect, so don’t wait until it’s too late!

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner louisiana flood

  • 7 Things You Should Do Following a Flood

    Flooded House following a floodFlooding can be a scary, dangerous disaster, and if not dealt with swiftly and properly after the fact, you could be in for even more lingering effects. It is recommended to bring your home back into good repair as soon as you can, so as to protect your health (such as from mold) as well as preventing further damage.

    But how do you do that? Great question. Let’s dive in (pun intended) and learn more about what you should do following a flood. Floodsmart.gov has many great suggestions, some of which we’ll be looking at in this article.

     

    Take Pictures

    While you will probably want to share your experience on social media, the pictures you take of the damages can - and should - be used by your insurance company when processing your claims. So before you start cleaning out and clearing up, make sure you photograph the mess your home is in, or else risk losing out on some coverage.

     

    Stay Healthy

    Floodsmart.gov recommends boiling all water for drinking and cooking until local authorities deem your water supply is safe. Because flood water can bring in a host of contaminates (including sewage, muck, and other things you don’t want in your system), you’ll want to make sure you have a way to treat your water before drinking it. Otherwise, be prepared to get a lot of bottled water from the store.

    Since flood water can be super nasty, it’s best to wear rubber boots to keep the water away from your skin. Likewise, wear gloves and other protective clothing while working to clear your house of leftover water and debris.

     

    Keep Power Off

    If you’re wading around in your flooded home, the last thing you want is to be zapped by a live current. Turn your power off and you’ll be just fine.

     

    Remove Wet Contents Immediately

    Mold grows quicklyFlooded Stuff following a flood, so make sure you get rid of all your wet belongings to avoid as much as possible. Washing walls and floor will also help keep mold out. Unfortunately, in order to clean floors, you might have to tear it out and replace it. But that’s better than leaving a flooded floor inside and having mold grow underneath it, which will cause health problems later on.

     

    File an Insurance Claim

    This goes without saying, but you need to have a flood insurance policy before you can actually file a claim. And remember, that policy needs to be purchased at least 30 days before a flood, or else the claim is void.

     

    Remove Water

    Wet Vac following a floodUnless you’re happy with your new built-in swimming pool, it’s time to remove the water from your home. Buckets are one way to bail out your home, but a more effective way is to use a sump pump. You can find these at most home supply stores. A wet vac is also necessary to dry up that water, which will also help reduce mold growth.

     

    Avoid Flooded Water

    WINDSOR, UK - 11 FEBRUARY following a flood

    Lastly, avoid flood water in streets, yards, or anywhere else. Dangerous debris can harm you. If you get cut while standing in that water the dirty, deadly contaminants and organisms can creep in to your wound and infect it, compromising your health. Flood waters may also continue to have a strong current, and even shallow water can sweep you off your feet. So be very careful around flood waters.

     

     

    Floods are the most common disaster in the United States and can be very dangerous and devastating. Make sure you know what to do following a flood before it happens, so when it does come you can go right to work.

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner - following a flood

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