S. La. storm victims out of luck for FEMA relief

Advocate photo by Ellyn Couvillion -- Charles Logue of Prairieville waits in his car at the edge of the flooded parking lot of the La Maison Des Enfants daycare center in Gonzales, as Ricardo Quinoez carries Logue's son, Andre' Logue, 5, and Mac Hood carries Logue's other son, Cameron Logue, 8, to the car on Wednesday, when flash floods hit the area. Show caption
Advocate photo by Ellyn Couvillion -- Charles Logue of Prairieville waits in his car at the edge of the flooded parking lot of the La Maison Des Enfants daycare center in Gonzales, as Ricardo Quinoez carries Logue's son, Andre' Logue, 5, and Mac Hood carries Logue's other son, Cameron Logue, 8, to the car on Wednesday, when flash floods hit the area.

Officials in Ascension and other parishes flooded by the spate of severe storms last week have telegraphed their sense that the damage hasn’t been widespread enough to prompt federal help.

On Thursday, Ascension Parish’s top emergency management official, Rick Webre, said that after damage assessments this week, those feelings appear to be correct.

“Unfortunately … we’re not going to be eligible for any federal aid for this disaster. We just didn’t meet the state’s threshold for assistance,” Webre told West Ascension drainage officials in Donaldsonville.

Webre said the parishes, which must meet regional damage thresholds to access money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, won’t be able to have public or individual assistance.

Public assistance helps local governments repair damaged public buildings and pay for debris pickup and other storm-related costs. Individual assistance helps residents with lodging, rental and other costs after a disaster.

The scope of the storms, which dumped intense rainfall on parts of Ascension, St. James and Assumption parishes last week, has emerged as waters receded and parish leaders have reported their findings in public statements and at rounds of meetings this week.

After Webre delivered his assessment about FEMA help to the West Ascension Consolidated Gravity Drainage District Board of Commissioners, the group heard from Sandra Francois, 52, who lives in the west bank community of Aben.

“I had 46 inches of water in my home. The floors are buckled. The floors are ruined, so I would like to know what type assistance are we going to have, if any, because we don’t have the funds to lift the home at this time. And I would like to know what caused such a drastic flood. How did it happen?”

George Rodeillat, Ascension’s west side coordinator, said the parish’s west bank received 13 inches of rain in 10 hours and 18 inches during the entire event, totals that match some of the worst rainfall on Ascension’s east bank and elsewhere.

Echoing comments from Ascension’s top east bank drainage officials on Monday, Rodeillat said winds and tides combined with the intense rain to slow down drainage flow.

“There was too much water in too short a given time,” Rodeillat told Francois.

Also, West Ascension relies on gravity-fed canals in nearby parishes, which have not had work in years due to permitting issues, to funnel runoff into Lake Des Allemands in St. John the Baptist Parish and Lake Verret in Assumption Parish.

Webre told West Ascension drainage officials earlier on Thursday that 109 uninsured homes were flooded but not enough of those homes, as well as other homes in St. James Parish, met federal criteria for “major damage” to open up FEMA’s individual assistance program.

Webre explained that criteria involve severe flooding that affects not only walls but also the foundation of homes.

Webre said Ascension will probably end up with more than 150 homes flooded from the storms once assessments are completed.

Webre added that parish officials knew storm damage would not surpass the more than $6 million statewide threshold to make FEMA public assistance available either.