Louisiana Still Mopping up From Gustav as Ike Enters Gulf

September 10, 2008

Hurricane Ike entered the Gulf of Mexico on Sept. 9 and the latest path projected by the National Hurricane Center has the storm making landfall in Texas, possibly near Corpus Christi. Meanwhile, Louisiana is still mopping up from Hurricane Gustav, which hit that state on Sept. 1.

Utility giant Entergy reports on its Web site, www.entergy.com/, that Hurricane Gustav was the second worst storm in its 95-year history in terms of customer outages. Restoration is complete in Mississippi, Arkansas and New Orleans. As of early morning on Sept. 10, the company reported an 88 percent restoration level; power has been restored to 846,348 customers affected by Gustav. However, many areas of Louisiana, including in the capitol of Baton Rouge were still without power.

The company said it expects to have restored power to more than 75 percent of the Baton Rouge metro area by the end of the day, including Denham Springs, Zachary, Gonzales and Port Allen. It said most of the remaining outages are in areas that experienced heavy damage, where more extensive repair is required.

Thirty-six parishes in Louisiana now have federal major disaster designation due to Gustav, but Governor Bobby Jindal has asked it be extended to all 64 parishes. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently added Saint Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes. Some residents in declared disaster areas could receive financial assistance from the government, including money to repair their homes.

Tax Relief
The state Department of Revenue has extended the tax filing deadlines for state income taxes until January 5 for Louisiana taxpayers affected by Hurricane Gustav. The extended deadline matches one granted recently by the Internal Revenue Service for federal income taxes due from individuals and corporations, as well as for declaration of estimates and corporation franchise tax.

The extensions are available on tax returns and payments due between Sept. 1, 2008 and Jan. 5, 2009. The revenue department will waive any penalties and abate interest that normally would apply to returns received after the deadline.

The LDR said taxpayers who reside outside of a disaster area but whose books, records or tax professionals are located in the relief area will also be assisted. In addition, employee withholdings due on or after Sept. 1, 2008, and on or before Sept. 16, 2008, will not be subject to penalty or interest as long as these returns and payments are received by Sept. 16, 2008.

State Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain has said that preliminary estimates of Hurricane Gustav’s damage to Louisiana’s crops is about $372 million, but he expects that number to grow.

More than 47 percent of the state’s cotton crop was damaged by the storm, which dumped more than 20 inches of rain on farmers across the state. He says wind knocked down much of the corn and rice that had not been harvested. He says soybeans, sweet potatoes and pecans also took major damage. In fact, every crop will suffer major losses.

Strain says he’s asking federal officials for aid to help bail out farmers.

Casinos statewide were also affected by the recent. State police say that most casinos throughout Louisiana were forced to close due to evacuations or power outages.

In addition, of the state’s approximately 13,000 registered video poker machines, almost half of them had to be shut down.

The affected casinos began reopening quickly and by Saturday all of those that had closed were back up and running.

Shreveport-area casinos were not affected by Gustav and remained open.

Arkansas Declares Disaster Areas
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe also has declared 10 counties state disaster areas because of high winds and heavy rains brought to his state by the remnants of Hurricane Gustav.

Beebe issued the declaration for Ashley, Calhoun, Chicot, Drew, Garland, Hot Spring, Lincoln, Pulaski, Saline and Van Buren counties.

Beebe also released $100,000 from the governor’s disaster fund for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management to provide assistance to residents whose home and property sustained damage that is not covered by insurance.

The governor’s office says assessments are now underway to determine how much damage Gustav caused to the state’s crops.

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