As Floods Recede, Life Resumes in Louisiana

Filed in Environmental, Leadership by on September 2, 2016 1 Comment

This post was updated Sept. 6 with more recent information about damages.

Two weeks after unrelenting rain caused massive flooding in and around Baton Rouge, La., communities are slowly coming back to life.

Enormous piles of brush, trash and pieces of the homes destroyed by the rushing waters have largely been swept into high rows and now are beginning to be carted away.

As of Sept. 4, FEMA had documented damage to over 55,000 homes but that number was expected to rise.

NAHB Senior Officer Randy Noel of nearby La Place, La., remembers the chaos and confusion when two major hurricanes, Katrina and Isaac, hit the Gulf Coast in 2005. It’s why he is working with the state HBA leadership, which created a task force to help Baton Rouge home builders and remodelers prepare for the onslaught of work ahead.

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA - March 20, 2006: University students on Spring Break remove debris from an abandoned house in the Lower Ninth Ward. The Lower Ninth Ward was devastated by the storm and remains a shadow of its former self.

Volunteers remove debris from an abandoned house in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward that was severely damaged from hurricane Katrina.

It’s not just the long hours spent rebuilding, Noel said, but the paperwork, insurance negotiations, and misinformation about what sort of help is available, what repair work is necessary and at what cost.

“These guys are swamped. They don’t have time to deal with this stuff. They don’t want to have to go through this process,” he said.

So their Louisiana colleagues are giving them advice on dealing with insurance companies to make sure the home owners they are working with have accurate repair appraisals. They’re holding public forums so consumers have a better idea of how much money to expect and from where.

“[After Katrina], there was a great deal of confusion about grants” and misinformation about tens of thousands of dollars awaiting home owners if they worked with the “right” companies, Noel said. However, a large number of those people ended up with insufficient funds for repairs.

Now, builders are dusting off liability forms used in the wake of Katrina, when builders were worried that they might be unfairly blamed for mold damage after their work was complete. They’re encouraging FEMA and other assistance agencies to think local, and not bring outside companies in to oversee huge rebuilding efforts – for an equally huge fee.

And they are taking steps to ensure that the people who come to help are the people these home owners need.

“The last thing we need is a ‘volunteer’ drywall finisher. Or finish carpenter. That work has to be done right.” Noel said.

While trucks rumble in daily with drywall and other supplies, several local cabinet companies suffered severe flooding damage and are likely to not be able to keep up with demand.

The bright side, Noel said, is that “the air conditioners, the compressors, they seem to be working pretty good. They’re waiving most of the building permit fees so people can get back in their houses more quickly.”

He also notes how communities throughout the Gulf Coast have come together. Even before federal emergency assistance arrived, “people lit up social media,” Noel said. “We had 18-wheelers coming in – truckloads of food, clothes, water – lots of water. Everybody on the Gulf Coast who has experienced something similar jumped right up, filled those trucks and got them down here. It was a wonderful thing.

“It’s amazing to me the number of volunteers who showed up within 24 hours,” Noel said. “They rescued people in their own boats. They brought supplies. They helped gut houses. It was a sight to behold. It wasn’t the government, it was the citizens who all wanted to help. It was pretty heartwarming.”

The Louisiana HBA is accepting donations to assist members through the Louisiana Homebuilders Disaster Relief Fund for rebuilding efforts that are just getting underway. You can send donations to the HBA at 660 Laurel Street, Baton Rouge, LA 70802.

Comments (1)

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  1. Thank you Randy Noel, NAHB Leadership, and NAHB Membership to rally with Randy to help the flood victims in Baton Rouge, LA!
    Let’s all take a moment to think and execute a plan of action small or large to help these folks!
    Every contribution of time, effort and money can make a fantastic difference!
    Ask your HBA or BIA to make a contribution from your local and state associations’ emergency funds to the Louisiana HBA!
    ONwards and UPwards with your support!
    Let’s help Randy and the Louisianans today!

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