BATON ROUGE, La. — Six months after Hurricane Laura wrecked southwest Louisiana, the Federal Emergency Management Agency still is trying to set up temporary mobile homes for several thousand families who need a place to live, with an estimate the work won’t be complete until more than a year after the storm.
John Long, the FEMA official coordinating recovery work in Louisiana, said about 1,250 families are in the temporary housing units, typically a recreational vehicle or mobile home. That’s fewer than half the 3,300 families — most of them in hard-hit Calcasieu Parish — the federal agency deemed eligible and expects to eventually house.
“It’s just a long process, and so because of that, we don’t expect to have everyone in a unit that needs one until the September/October time frame,” Long said.
He acknowledged the slow process, describing efforts to find and lease available RV and mobile home parks for units that can’t fit onto someone’s property as they rebuild. But he said FEMA also will have to build several mobile home parks to house the remaining temporary units. For units placed in someone’s yard or for new group sites, that requires construction work and permitting and zoning approvals.
“We are doing everything that we can think of to try and speed these processes up, but at the end of the day, it’s like anything else. Construction just takes time,” Long said.
In the meantime, families waiting for mobile homes are living in federally financed hotel rooms or with friends and relatives, he said.
Laura ravaged southwest Louisiana, striking Aug. 27 as a Category 4 storm just south of Lake Charles. Less than two months later, Delta swept into the same area as a Category 2 storm last October. Nearly 47,000 homes were damaged by Laura across 21 parishes, most in the Lake Charles region, according to state estimates.
Long spoke in a wide-ranging interview about recovery efforts, along with Casey Tingle, the deputy director of Louisiana’s homeland security office. They described work already done and continuing efforts to help the hundreds of thousands of people who suffered damage from Laura and Delta.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has asked President Joe Biden’s administration for $3 billion in block grant aid to help Louisiana with its ongoing recovery from the 2020 hurricanes. Congressional approval is needed if the state is to receive the money.
Tingle said those dollars would help pay for programs to rebuild and create affordable rental housing, repair or rebuild people’s homes, among other needs. The money would be coupled with federal hazard mitigation dollars the state will receive — estimated to be around $220 million — to also help modernize, improve and harden water systems and other infrastructure against future storm risks.
“Certainly, the scale of this event and the impact of this event is going to mean that recovery goes on for years,” Tingle said.
About the photo: A mobile home is destroyed by a fallen tree, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, in Westlake, La., as clean up efforts continue following Hurricane Laura. (Kirk Meche/American Press via AP)
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