Gov. Edwards meets with Parish officials

Published 7:01 pm Friday, March 11, 2016

Gov. John Bel Edwards met with emergency personnel and elected officials in Washington Parish Friday night, following a day of torrential rains, flooding and an unknown amount of damage to public and personal property.

Edwards said he expects that Louisiana will qualify for federal flood aid, but because the damages aren’t yet known, the state cannot file a claim with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The state needs to show at least a $6 million in damage to public infrastructure before it can qualify for federal aid, and Edwards expressed confidence the state would meet that threshold. However, he declined to offer up an estimate so early in the process.

To that end, Edwards asked all parish officials to document all damage in Washington Parish so the state would have an accurate assessment of the cost of recovery.

Edwards said the state could have qualified for immediate federal aid if local and state officials had determined the flooding to be beyond the control of the state and local officials, but he said that wasn’t the case. The governor said state and local agencies have plenty of practice dealing with natural disasters, and he praised their quick response to this one.

However, Edwards said he’d spent the day touring the state, and he said the entire state is hurting.

“This is unprecedented in the state of Louisiana,” he said.

Gov. Edwards also iterated earlier calls for residents to stay put at home, if possible.

“I am cautioning everyone to stay at home if possible,” he said. “Do not get out on the road unless it’s necessary and certainly do not go out and sightsee because you’re just going to create more problems.”

On a related note, Bogalusa Police Chief Joe Culpepper, who attended the conference, said bothe the Avenue B bridge and the Columbia Street Bridge will be out of commission until the state’s department of transportation office can asses their safety. The bridges may be closed for weeks.