On Wednesday, Governor John Bel Edwards continued visiting areas impacted by Hurricane Ida and meeting with state and parish officials in Jefferson, Orleans, and St. Charles Parishes.
Edwards provided updates during a media briefing Wednesday afternoon in Jefferson Parish on storm recovery, emphasizing that amid all the difficulties of the last few days, "there are certain ways in which we have been blessed." First, there have been only two confirmed fatalities related to Ida in the state; second, levee systems held up.
Dozens of hospitals and nursing homes are operating on generators and some hospitals are beginning to see power restored. More than 11,000 homes and businesses have also been restored. More than 1 million were without power after the storm. The governor said even though it's small, it's a step forward.
Edwards said there is "tremendous damage" to electric infrastructures further south in the state in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes. Co-op South Louisiana Electric Cooperative Association (SLECA), which operates in Assumption, Lafourche, Terrebonne, St. Martin, and St. Mary Parishes, will have to rebuild its entire system due to damage its infrastructure sustained in the storm. SLECA officials told the governor that in the company's 83-year history, it has never been this devastated as during Ida.
FEMA's Blue Roof Program has been activated for parishes that sustained hurricane force winds. The program focuses on getting houses in livable condition as soon as possible. Parishes included in the program are: Ascension, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Terrebonne. Learn more about the program here.
295 people are sheltered in shelters statewide. Edwards told those who have been evacuated not to return until their parish officials say it's ok to do so. DOTD has transported more than 1,200 people on more than 200 buses and vehicles.
212 water outages are impacting more than 600,000 people; 95 boil advisories are in place, impacting more than 400,000 people.
Bridge inspections have also begun. Edwards said the entire Louisiana National Guard has been activated, and has conducted 17 points of distribution of commodities for MREs, water, and more.
State agencies have rescued 636 people and 17 pets, with 17 search and rescue teams assisting from 17 states.
Two deaths have been confirmed so far to be Ida-related, but Edwards said he expects that number to increase.
The governor briefly discussed COVID-19, and confirmed he has extended the statewide mask mandate until September 29.
President Biden is expected to travel to Louisiana Friday to survey damage from Ida and meet with officials.
Edwards was asked what his message, after residents seeing the challenges faced by the southwest portion of the state after Hurricane Laura last year, would be to the people of southeast Louisiana who are also relying on the federal government for assistance.
"We're going to take care of the people in southwest Louisiana, it's just going to be later than it needed to be. I don't want people to think we haven't been working for southwest Louisiana. We have committed money from housing programs, from the watershed initiative, from the capital outlay program. We have created tax increment financing districts over there. I have swapped out state buildings with the city so they can get back going much faster. We've done more transportation projects and so forth, but what they need is permanent housing and that money has not yet been appropriated by congress so HUD can give us the CDBG [Community Development Block Grant] funding that we need. So my commitment to southwest Louisiana is that we're going to continue to make the case for them and we're going to immediately start making the case for southeast Louisiana...I don't know why. There's no excuse why it's a year later and we don't have it for southwest Louisiana. We know the nation is focused on Louisiana right now for Ida and we're going to take advantage of that and see if we can't turn that into a very speedy appropriation for congress. And I can tell you our congressional delegation is fighting. I absolutely know that. I've been favorably impressed with conversations thus far with the White House. We just have to make it all happen. My message is we're going to work night and day to make that happen just as soon as we possibly can."
The briefing was streamed on the Governor's and Jefferson Parish Government Facebook page.
Later in the evening, the governor visited St. Charles Parish and held a briefing with officials there. Parish President Matthew Jewell spoke of the damage left by Ida, saying he, "can't imagine there's one structure in the parish that didn't receive some sort of damage...from minor, cosmetic to total, catastrophic loss of homes and businesses."
The damage is evident everywhere, he said. Many roads aren't accessible because of the vast amount of debris, which is estimated to be around 1 million cubic yards. Jewell said, for perspective, that is more than double the amount of debris from Hurricane Laura.
Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng provided a second update Wednesday night, also discussing the "incredible and major destruction in our parish." She said she joined Congressman Steve Scalise for an aerial tour of the damage, something she called "a very difficult ride but very much needed."
Sheng said the parish is in dire need of fuel and that officials won't be able to provide basic needs if they can't get fuel.
She provided short updates for a few specific communities, including Grand Isle, which she called "uninhabitable." Secondary searches took place there Wednesday, pumps are in place, and the dewatering process has started. There is about three feet of sand across the island, and Sheng said 100% of structures there were damaged and an estimated 40% destroyed.
"You cannot go to Grand Isle right now by land or by boat," she said.
Sheng shared video taken during the tour Wednesday that shows the extent of Ida's damage to Grand Isle:
These briefings can be viewed below:
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