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State, local officials: Don't come home yet

Flyover grand isle.PNG
Posted at 8:49 AM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 12:53:18-04

The damage in St. John the Baptist Parish is great, and offiicals are urging evacuated folks to stay away until it is safe to come home.

Governor John Bel Edwards will visit areas in southeast Louisiana impacted by Hurricane Ida Tuesday morning, including a fly-over. Following that tour, he held a press conference with FEMA and parish officials.

The message was clear: it is not safe to be here, and if you're safe elsewhere you need to wait.

"What I'm trying to make sure people understand is, many of the life-supporting infrastructure elements are not up right now," the governor said. "They're not operating. If you have evacuated, don't return until we tell you it's safe to return. The schools are closed. No businesses are open. There's no electricity and no water. Please don't come home before it's time."

It's "going to be a while" before things are safe, he added.

Most deaths related to hurricanes happen after the storm passes, the governor said: people who drive into high water, who die from carbon monoxide poisoning related to generators, using unfamiliar power equipment, falling off roofs, heat exhaustion.

"Now is really the most dangerous time, over the next couple of weeks, so we're asking people to be patient, asking people to be good neighbors," he said.

St. John Parish President Jaclyn Hotard echoed his comments.

"If you can stay where you are, please do so. The parish is without power and water. If you're in a safe place with water and power, it's the best place for you to be," Hotard said.

Communication is still a challenge as well, she said. She said this is the worst disaster she's seen for the parish, and predicting as well that "it's going to take a long time" for things to get closer to normal.

Sheriff Mike Tregre had messages for two communities.

To criminals who think this is the time to steal from people, he noted "in the politest way possible" that 911 service is sketchy and residents confronted with thieves might "take matters into their own hands."

"You may be the one needing 911," he said.

Tregre also had a word of caution for residents.

"Do not be a victim to contractor fraud. Do not pay any money up front," he said. "And if you do have contact, do law enforcement and yourself a favor: Take a picture of them and of their vehicle, and their license plate number. Do not let yourself become a victim of not only Ida but also the greedy people who are trying to take advantage of you."

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said the President has signed a major disaster declaration at Edwards' request, thus paving the way for individual assistance for those affected by the storm. It also assures local governments of 100 percent reimbursement for storm clean-up efforts.

"We understand many people are away from their homes and want to get back, but I strongly encourage you to listen to your local officials, please wait until they tell you it is safe to come home," Criswell said.

If you are displaced or have damage, go to disasterassistance.gov, use the app or call 1800621FEMA. If you're in the disaster area and can't do that, look for the FEMA teams which will be walking the neighborhoods, she said.

"Find somebody in a FEMA shirt and they can help," she said.

She said FEMA has had boots on the ground in Louisiana since before landfall, but they're "just one small piece of the federal family" that is here to help. Coast Guard, National Guard, US Army Corps of Engineers, Fish and Wildlife have all sent personnel to help.

"It's been a rough 24-48 hours. The first responders have been amazing, working so hard to keep their community safe while at the same time they are often suffering loss and damage to their own homes," she said. "Check in on your neighbors, your loved ones, that's so important right now. People are going to need help. It's amazing how our communites come together and help each other out."

Here's the full presser:

The governor will visit Lafourche, Terrebonne, and St. John the Baptist parishes and conduct flyovers of Grand Isle and Lafitte to assess storm damage.

The governor will hold a media briefing at the St. John the Baptist Emergency Operations Center at 10:45 am.

He will be joined by FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern, and Major General Diana Holland.

See flyover video of damaged areas from the coast guard and Louisiana State Police.

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