LOUISIANA – A thin rivulet connected the pools of water on either side of Route 79 in south Louisiana Monday morning, Only a few weeks ago, the area between Noix Creek had been comprehensively swamped, leaving blocks of 79 inside the city limits underwater.
The retreat of flood waters in Louisiana and across Pike County left a long and expensive list of repairs to streets, parks and other public facilities.
State and federal officials visited Pike County Monday to gauge whether the costs of flooding to county and city governments could be offset with federal disaster dollars.
They needed to see a total of just under $70,000 in damages before the could flag the area to their higher-ups. They planned to start in Louisiana and continue on to Clarskville if the damage in Louisiana didn’t qualify.
That didn’t end up being a problem.
“I think we kind of agree that just what we saw this morning will probably be about twice that. There’s a lot more to do,” City Administrator Kelly Henderson said.
The officials — Steve Bessemer of the State Emergency Management Agency and Glen Lupardus of the Federal Emergency Management Agency — were looking at the question of help for strapped local governments, not home- and business-owners. According to Bessemer a fly-over of the area, conducted earlier this month before the waters fell, assessed its eligibility for individual assistance.
Gov. Mike Parson sent in a request for individual assistance for Pike County Monday — one of 41 counties included. The governor reported that inspections conducted across the state found that 953 of 1,650 home and 125 of 251 businesses looked at had been seriously damaged or destroyed.
“Probably fairly soon we’ll have that determination [on individual assistance],” Bessemer said.
Lupardus and Bessemer started the day in City Hall, where Henderson, City Clerk Memarie Gonzalez and other city staff presented a summing-up of the amount of money the city had already spent as of a few weeks ago — roughly $60,000 — and plumbed the depths of the disaster relief system. Would the cost of cleaning the caked-on silt of roads be covered? The cost of finding accommodations for displaced people? Of repairing the detour off Main Street torn up by trucks taking a detour around 79?
They then took the officials on a brief tour of the still-pending work required by the hopefully-past flood and storms: two busted retaining walls in Riverview Cemetery, the still-blocked intersection of Maryland Street and 79, and the city’s burn site on Star Hill, where much of the debris left by the flooding has been relocated.
The officials left Louisiana fairly confident they’d be able to issue a request for Pike County, according to Bessemer. They reached out to Clarksville for information about the damage they’d sustained “just in case,” Bessemer said, they needed to top off the total they had reached in Louisiana.
The visit was an experience for Bessemer, who had not been back to Louisiana since the water had significantly receded.
“I think I’m always kind of impressed when water gets up, with the kind of damage it can do,” Bessemer said.