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Donald Trump Tours Damaged Louisiana Flood Regions


Louisiana has begun the slow process of recovery as tens of thousands of people were forced from their homes by devastating floods. The Red Cross calls it the worst natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy four years ago. Donald Trump visited Baton Rouge yesterday. President Obama will go to Louisiana on Tuesday. Tegan Wendland is a reporter with member station WWNO. She has been in Baton Rouge this past week. She's on the line from New Orleans. Tegan, thanks very much for being with us.

TEGAN WENDLAND, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: What's the latest on the flooding?

WENDLAND: So flood water is making its way south at this point. Small towns in parishes below Baton Rouge are seeing some localized flooding along the Amite River, but the National Weather Service doesn't expect this flooding to be as serious, though there is a lot of standing water and some of those parishes are still sandbagging at this point. Many roads are still closed and the ramps to the main highways are closed, so when I was driving back and forth on the highway, ramps just led down into these huge standing pools of water. So that's causing some problems getting food and supplies out of those areas.

SIMON: You were in Baton Rouge this past week and spent some time with people who had just started to check on their homes and were beginning to grasp what had happened. What's that experience been like?

WENDLAND: Yeah, it was really sobering. I guess I didn't expect it to be this devastating. The center of the city is pretty unscathed, but the surrounding suburbs were totally inundated. So now some of these otherwise quiet streets are lined with just enormous piles of debris and trash as people empty out their homes. Many are still without electricity. Cars are backed up at blinking traffic lights that have turned into four-ways. And it gets really dark at night because a lot of the street lights are still out, so local officials have called an overnight curfew to prevent looting. So it just feels very eerie there.

I actually lived in Baton Rouge for a few years, so I stayed with my friends this week. And they just seemed very tired. They're not going to work. The schools are closed. And they're spending their days cleaning out their friends' houses, ripping out drywall. It was a rare treat for them to go out to dinner with me because most of the restaurants are closed. And then we chose this Mexican place, and we went there and everyone there was just talking about the floods.

SIMON: Who's been hit hardest? What are people doing now?

WENDLAND: Well, it's really been people of all income levels and backgrounds both in the city and the small towns nearby. One place I visited was Denham Springs. It's a town of about 11,000 people where 80 percent of the homes were flooded. And that's where I met Sue Davis (ph), who was cleaning out her elderly parents' home with her siblings. She was ripping out carpeting, throwing out damaged furniture and then just spraying the whole thing out with a hose. She's just trying to figure out what's salvageable at this point.

SUE DAVIS: We haven't even gotten into the back rooms yet to really clean, but we know it's going to be at least three to six months before - and probably longer - before our parents can get back in.

SIMON: Tegan, what about the response from local and federal authorities?

WENDLAND: So Governor John Bel Edwards just announced yesterday that emergency food stamps are available, and FEMA's going to pay for people to stay in hotels and apartments. But the big question is how people will afford to fix their homes. Only 13 percent have flood insurance, so FEMA's going to provide checks up to $33,000 for eligible homeowners, and inspectors are on the ground now assessing damage. And those checks will be issued in coming weeks, though many will receive less than that $33,000 maximum.

SIMON: Tegan Wendland, reporter with member station WWNO. Thanks very much for being with us.

WENDLAND: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.