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Edwards Visits Hard-Hit St. James Parish: ‘It’s Been A Challenging Week’

An elderly Black man in a walker sits in front of his home that was destroyed by Hurricane Ida. A large uprooted tree can be seen in the background.
Shalina Chatlani
Gulf States Newsroom
Melvin Ceaser, 82, said his father planted the live oak tree behind him, which crushed a neighbor’s trailer back when was a child. His home was damaged too, and it’s been in his family for generations.

Gov. John Bel Edwards continued to visit parishes affected by Hurricane Ida on Sunday. He held a press conference in St. James Parish, which is still 100 percent without electricity after the Category 4 hurricane wiped out power for much of Southeast Louisiana one week ago.

“It’s been a very challenging week for people all over Southeast Louisiana,” Edwards acknowledged, as he thanked the governors from around the country that sent personnel and resources to aid in the recovery effort.

He said that the death toll from the storm has reached 13, as the Louisiana Health Department confirmed Sunday that a 74-year-old man in Orleans Parish died of severe heat exhaustion.

Edwards used the press conference to inform residents affected by Hurricane Ida of all of the assistance programs available to them, including from FEMA, which has received more than 380,000 applications for disaster relief assistance. The governor said nearly $165 million has been approved to help Louisiana residents recover from the Category 4 hurricane.

More than 36,000 residents have applied for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Blue Roof program, which installs fiber-reinforced tarps on damaged roofs to protect homes until they can receive permanent repairs. Edwards urged residents to take advantage of the program, as engineers will install the sheeting. He added that tarps installed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ remained intact when Hurricane Delta hit Southwest Louisiana in October 2020, roughly six weeks after Hurricane Laura devastated the region that August.

Roughly 11,000 clams for disaster unemployment, which is eligible for residents in 25 parishes affected by Hurricane Ida, have been filed. Residents out of work because of power outages and damages caused by the storm are urged to apply for unemployment assistance or at 1-866-783-5567.

Edwards said Louisiana has received 2,676 National Guardsmen from Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas and that it will receive more from Alabama, Kentucky and South Carolina later today.

The National Guard has provided roughly 2.5 million meals to Louisianans in need after the hurricane.

The Governor said a request for disaster SNAP food assistance has been made and that he anticipates it being approved. Residents can apply now so that when the program is available they will receive their benefits more quickly.

Edwards expressed less concern than he did on Saturday about a potential storm forming in the gulf. On Sunday the National Weather Service said that the disturbance is unlikely to develop into a storm, but could bring rainfall to Southeast Louisiana.

“But even if we don’t get it from this storm, it is still early in the hurricane season,” Edwards said, remembering that in 2020 Louisiana was hit by four hurricanes, Marco, Laura, Delta and Zeta. “So we all have to be prepared for that next hurricane and we have to assume that it’s gonna come before we’re recovered from this one. It could come before we’ve actually finished responding to this one.”

Edwards was joined by St. James Parish President Pete Dufresne who issued thoughts and prayers for the area’s residents and for communities in neighboring parishes also struggling to recover from power outages, water, food and gas shortages and extreme heat following Hurricane Ida.

Congressman Troy Carter, who represents Louisiana’s 2nd District, was also on the ground. He urged residents who might have electricity to check on community members in areas that are still without power to prevent any more loss of life.

“This is now a great time for us to demonstrate the resiliency and the love for each other as a strong community that we know that we are,” Carter said.

Edwards, who called the fatal shooting of a 36-year-old man at a gas station in Metairie “inexcusable,” echoed Carter saying he had witnessed several kind acts between neighbors in the aftermath of Ida.

“I can assure you of this there are a thousand acts of kindness for every bit of foolishness that’s out there,” Edwards said. “That’s why the people of Louisiana continue to inspire me.”

Bobbi-Jeanne Misick is the justice, race and equity reporter for the Gulf States Newsroom, a collaboration between NPR, WWNO in New Orleans, WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama and MPB-Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson. She is also an Ida B. Wells Fellow with Type Investigations at Type Media Center.

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