New Orleans-area flood updates: St. Tammany sheriff urges continued vigilance in flooded areas _lowres

Advocate photo by SOPHIA GERMER -- A car sits on the road in River Gardens during the third day of St. Tammany Parish flooding near Slidell, Monday March 14, 2016.

Disaster assistance in the aftermath of power rainstorms across Louisiana is already starting to flow into the state, but the road to recovery is likely to be a long one, state and federal officials told the Louisiana Select Committee on Homeland Security on Tuesday.

Even as roads and large swaths of land remain covered by floodwaters, particularly in north Louisiana where some areas received more than 20 inches of rain earlier this month, federal staff has already started work with disaster assistance, said Gerard Stolar, a FEMA coordinating officer.

The number of disaster inspectors in the state will likely double later this week. There are 230 FEMA inspectors in Louisiana. The additional inspectors will add 150 disaster survivor staff who will work with affected residents affected, he said. Services will keep expanding as FEMA and the state identify additional locations where people can get help with housing, food or disaster recovery assistance.

About $7.5 million in federal disaster assistance has been approved to date, but that represents just about 17 percent of the 20,000 people who have applied for help so far, said Mark Riley, deputy director of disaster recover with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

The flooding impacted most of the state, with rainwater and backwater flooding from north Louisiana to Tangipahoa Parish. Many highways were closed, including Interstate 10 at the Texas border.

Statewide, there were 6,000 people rescued, 21,000 people had to evacuate and 11,000 homes were damaged, said GOHSEP Director James Waskom.

Damage assessments are ongoing in many parishes, with 26 having received a major federal declaration — which triggers federal assistance.

Disaster assistance begins with an application to FEMA by phone at (800) 621-3362 or online at disasterassistance.gov.

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