On Wednesday, floodwaters continued to shift, causing fresh misery for Louisianans and state officials trying to get a handle on a lengthening list of concerns.
“Flooding has no discretion as it affects everyone in all aspects,” says Mike Strain, Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) Commissioner. “I’m very proud of the team – the LDAF, the governor’s office, Homeland Security, everyone working together. We’re trying to stay abreast and keep up with the moving problems. As everyone knows by now, this is a record flood event.
By now, says Strain, “more than 20,000 – perhaps more than 30,000 – homes have been affected. In Livingston Parish, 70 percent of all homes have been affected. Seventy to 80 percent of homes in Denham Springs have been, as well. This is very widespread with more than 8,000 people in shelters.”
One of the major issues Strain and colleagues face is leapfrogging assets due to the moving floodwaters. “Now, we’re worried about parishes around Iberville, Ascension Parish and into Lafayette Parish. That has required great cooperation between agencies and private individuals.”
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On farm issues, “I’ve been on the phone with my federal counterparts daily. We’re doing analysis of the situations on our farms and grain elevators. There are teams currently on the ground assessing the damage.”
It usually takes several weeks after floods have fully receded “for our federal counterparts to have a full analysis of crop damages. We’re very concerned a lot of our rice and soybeans won’t be harvested.”
What is the expected timeline for waters receding?
“As the waters move from east to west and north to south, remember the crests are not instantaneous. The crest is a mark on a map at a point in a river. So, once the crest reaches Baton Rouge it will happen downriver at a later time. Once the majority of rivers have crested and waters are falling it’ll likely take a week, or more.
“Another determining factor is whether we have north or south winds. A lot of people may not know less than 1.5 percent of the water in the might Mississippi River comes from Louisiana. We drain into lesser tributaries and then out into the Gulf of Mexico. The Corps of Engineers is monitoring all the locks and gate structures to get the water out.
“We hope the flooding will abate in about a week. That’s provided, of course, that any more rain is mild. We have rain predicted in many areas through next Monday (August 22). By then, hopefully a lot of people will be able to get back into their homes. But we may need to pump out areas if the drainage itself isn’t adequate.
“Most levee systems are designed to keep water out of neighborhoods. They are designed to get water out of neighborhoods over the levee.”
There are several things Strain emphasizes are “very important” once water backs off property.
- All homeowners need to contact their termite control professional.
“The water, when it stands, washes away the termite barrier.”
- Make sure when you hire someone to repair your home they are a reputable, licensed, insured contractor.
“Hire a licensed arborist if that is necessary. Our elderly are particularly vulnerable to unscrupulous contractors.”
- Pay close attention to debris that may have floated onto your farmland.
“We really worry about farmers not seeing propane and butane tanks. If those are hit with a bush hog the results can be devastating. Check your property closely.”
- If you use Clorox for cleaning up the flood damage make sure your home is well-ventilated.
“Absolutely do not mix chemicals. Do not mix Pine-Sol with Clorox, don’t mix ammonia with Clorox.
- Be very cognizant of the chemicals used.
“Follow labels: only use outdoor pesticide products outside your home. Never use a pesticide inside and then come back and clean with Clorox. The same is true for mold retardants on baseboards.”