Deadline is Jan. 2 to Apply for Aid for Oct. Storm Damage in La.

Louisiana residents whose homes or businesses sustained damage in the Oct. 16, 2006, storm have until Jan. 2, 2006, to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance.

Two major storms dumped more than 20 inches of rain in parts of northeastern Louisiana, causing road and school closures and damage to homes and businesses.

Schools in Franklin, Caldwell and Richland parishes suffered most and were closed for a short time. Several homes in Hebert were completely destroyed and pushed into a nearby bayou. In St. Landry and Calcasieu parishes, hundreds of homes were reported flooded.

In all, 17 parishes were declared disaster areas shortly after the storms, prompting officials from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and FEMA to visit each and document the damage for Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

Blanco took an aerial tour of the damage, touching down in Caldwell and LaSalle parishes to speak with local officials.

On Nov. 2, President George W. Bush declared the parishes federal disaster areas.

So far, FEMA has distributed $4.9 million in disaster relief to residents, according to figures from the agency.

FEMA spokesman Bob Alvey said last week that 3,927 households had applied for help. He said that 1,653 residents have been approved for a total of $4.9 million in housing assistance. Most of the money distributed is to cover temporary housing and repair costs, he said.

The remaining applications are still under review, he said.

The first storm struck Oct. 16, causing widespread damage but less severe than the Oct. 27 downpour that followed.

The second round of rain caused heavy flooding along a swath that stretched above Interstate 10 from Texas to Port Barre in St. Landry Parish. Forecasters reported from 10 inches to more than 16 inches of rain in a period of six hours in some areas.

The Louisiana National Guard was called in to rescue residents in Calcasieu Parish, where officials said 400 homes received at least some flood damage and at least 25 were destroyed.

Calcasieu parish Administrator Mark McMurry said most of the damage was limited to ruined floors, carpeting and drywall. “A majority of those folks are back in their homes,” he said.

FEMA and Small Business Administration officials set up disaster centers and helped locals fill out applications for aid and loans. After the deadline, registered applicants can call FEMA toll-free at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) about assistance programs.