Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco is asking the president to declare a disaster in the New Orleans area after recent storms, including tornadoes, caused widespread damage, a number of injuries and even one death.
The declaration would clear the way for federal aid. Blanco is seeking it for Orleans, Jefferson and St. Martin parishes.
In a letter dated Feb. 16, Blanco said state and local governments are still recovering from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which hit in 2005. She said there is a clear need for aid to help affected residents rebuild. Early assessments indicated the greatest impact of the severe weather, which began early Feb. 13, was to homes and businesses in low-income areas, she said.
“I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and the affected local governments and that supplementary federal assistance is necessary,” she wrote.
Among the aid that she is requesting: disaster unemployment assistance, crisis counseling and disaster loans through the Small Business Administration.
Tornadoes and high winds went through the area, resulting in reports of 34 injuries, one death in New Orleans and the destruction of at least 79 houses, she said. Another 527 houses were damaged in the region. Twenty-three houses were destroyed in Jefferson Parish, 32 in Orleans Parish and 24 in St. Martin Parish. In Jefferson Parish a total of 231 houses were destroyed, damaged or affected by the storms, in Orleans, the total was 295 and in St. Martin, 80.
The National Weather Service reported two tornadoes in the New Orleans area.
Blanco signed a state of emergency for the parishes that could run through March 15.
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