BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Gov. John Bel Edwards says the state will likely spend more than $700 million responding to Hurricane Laura, with a large portion of the costs going to sheltering more than 11,000 evacuees in hotels.
While the arrival of new evacuees has slowed down, the governor said there are now more than 11,400 in shelters in Louisiana, most of them in hotels. He said another 3,000 are in Texas shelters, but the state believes there may be many more that have not been counted beyond the heads of households registered in those shelters.
Edwards, who is heading to Lake Charles to tour damage and meet with local officials, said the state has already spent more than $43 million responding to the natural disaster.
The cost of sheltering in non-congregant settings such as hotels was included in the federal disaster declaration approved before Laura made landfall, which allows FEMA to cover 75 percent of the cost.
“Given the magnitude of the damage and how widespread it is across the state of Louisiana, how long this recovery is going to last and just how may different services we’re going to have to provide, at this point I anticipate that we’re going to go well beyond the threshold that would qualify us for 90-10 cost-share,” said Edwards.
More than 80,000 people in Louisiana so far have registered for FEMA aid due to the hurricane, and the federal government has distributed $8.1 million in assistance. Edwards stressed the importance of registering for FEMA aid to those who have not already.
Edwards announced late Tuesday that FEMA has approved an additional seven Louisiana parishes for Individual Assistance following Hurricane Laura, bringing the total number of parishes where residents are eligible for aid to 16. The additional parishes include Natchitoches and Sabine parishes. Edwards said the state will continue to advocate for the remaining seven parishes with pending disaster declaration requests.
There are still more than 237,000 people in the state without power, down from a high of more than 615,000 at the peak of the storm. There are about 22,000 people working on power restoration, including about 17,000 from other states.
“Progress is being made each day, but we have a long road ahead of us and that that doesn’t mean that people aren’t out there suffering, because we know that they are,” said Edwards.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that the most damage from the storm is in Southeast Louisiana, but if you follow that track, you’re gonna find some outages in just about all the parishes that were impacted. But service is being restored fairly rapidly to North Louisiana and we expect that will continue over the next day or two. When you get to Vernon Parish and south, it becomes much harder. Just the sheer amount of damage to infrastructure.”
While there have been no new deaths related to the storm, the governor once again noted that more than half of the 15 reported so far were related to carbon monoxide poisoning associated with the improper use of a generator.
Edwards related the story of a family that had a generator running outside their home as is suggested for safe operation but placed it underneath an attic vent, which allowed the colorless, odorless gas to get into the house.
“Fortunately, they were not just powering up their home, they were powering up their carbon monoxide detector that alerted the family and they were able to get out and get to safety and reposition that generator. And they were the lucky ones, obviously, and smart, because they had that detector.”
Get details on how to safely operate a generator at getagameplan.org.