BATON ROUGE, La. — Gov. John Bel Edwards held a press conference on Wednesday on the response for Hurricane Laura where he urged residents in shelters or displaced by the storm to wait for local officials to announce their re-entry plans before returning to affected areas.
Following the press conference, Edwards says he would make the journey out to Lake Charles for his third tour of damaged areas.
"Progress is being made each day, but we have a long road ahead of us," said Edwards. "People are still suffering out there."
The governor had some good news as seven additional parishes had been approved for individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency Tuesday night, bringing the total number of eligible parishes to 16.
The list of parishes now approved from FEMA are Acadia, Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Grant, Jackson, Jeff Davis, Lincoln, Natchitoches, Ouachita, Rapides, Sabine, Vermilion, Vernon and Winn Parishes.
Those living in these parishes that seek FEMA individual assistance can visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362.
Edwards said that more than 80,000 residents have registered for assistance and FEMA has distributed about $1.8 million so far.
He said that some may receive an initial denial from FEMA for a lack of information, but urged residents to get the information needed to try again and not give up.
Edwards also said that residents should listen to local officials for updates in their areas on the availability of services, commodities and information on re-entry to affected areas.
He said that re-entry plans will be announced locally soon by local officials. Edwards also advised those who try to return before a re-entry plan is announced may find that their community may still have grocery stores and gas stations that are still closed.
The governor said that more than 30 water systems across the state are still down, primarily in the Southwest Louisiana area.
Widespread power outages are also a major concern. There are still about 237,000 power outages in Louisiana, which is down from a high of 615,000 immediately following the storm last Thursday. Most of the damage power infrastructure is in the Southwest Louisiana region.
Edwards said that utility service is being restored fairly rapidly in North Louisiana. He said that 22,000 individuals are working on power restoration with 17,000 of them coming from 29 different states.
The governor reminded residents currently relying on generator power to keep it running outdoors in a well ventilated area away from their home to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
The Louisiana National Guard is also till working on storm relief efforts and have now handed out 2.8 liters of water, 1.9 million MREs and 37,000 bags of ice.
LANG now has 40 points of distribution established across the state, which is the most every set up in Louisiana at one time.
Edwards said that most highways remain open, but some still have debris that needs to be cleared. Crews are working to make an initial sweep across all state highways before returning for a second sweep of those that need more work done.
Damage inspection teams are also working across the state to replace signs and installing generator power at key intersections.
Residents can visit 511LA.org to track debris clean up in their area.
Edwards said that the number of those in shelters is going down, but there are still 11,452 individuals being sheltered in Louisiana.
He said 10,980 of those are in non-congregant shelters in 46 hotels across the state with the majority of them in New Orleans.
He said that 472 are in congregant shelters, but most of them are being moved Wednesday into hotel rooms.
Those seeking information on shelters can text LASHELTER to 898-211 or call 211.
Edwards encouraged homeowners with room damage to sign up for the Blue Roof Program from the Army Corps of Engineers. The program is aimed at keeping people out of shelters and in their homes because many seeking shelter can't stay in their homes due to roof damage.
Homeowners with roof damage in the affected ares of Cameron, Calcasieu, Beauregard, Allen, Jeff Davis and Vernon Parishes are encouraged to apply for the program by calling 1-888-766-3258.
The full press briefing is below:
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