Louisiana aids Puerto Rico’s hurricane restoration, however leaders say island faces lengthy highway forward | State Politics


In the almost seven weeks since Hurricane Maria slammed ashore Puerto Rico, inflicting widespread devastation throughout the U.S. territory, Louisiana has been sharing badets and help.

After seeing the injury firsthand throughout a quick go to final week that included excursions of a number of the hardest-hit areas on the island, Louisiana’s high catastrophe restoration leaders say that Puerto Rico is on a really lengthy highway to restoration.

“This is a long-term recovery — it’s going to take a lot of money and a lot of resources,” Maj. Gen. Glenn Curtis, the adjutant common of the Louisiana National Guard, mentioned in a latest interview upon return from San Juan. “We in the continental United States don’t need to get comfortable and let them slip away.”

Louisiana has deployed to Puerto Rico members of the National Guard and catastrophe restoration officers, despatched provides and heavy gear, and brought on a central position in creating a crucial piece of its housing restoration plan.

“We’ve received so much help from other states, whenever we can we try to pay it forward and pay it back,” mentioned Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness government director James Waskom, who additionally traveled to Puerto Rico.

For Louisiana, it is an all-too-familiar feeling.

“If you go back to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike — all the other states and territories came to the aid of Louisiana and helped us tremendously,” Curtis mentioned. “As a state, we owe U.S. residents in different states and territories the identical courtesy when disasters occur.

“They are American residents, and if they’re in a foul manner, then it is our obligation and accountability to badist care for this,” Curtis added.

Both Curtis and Waskom mentioned one of many issues that caught out to them was the spirit of the Puerto Rican individuals. As they walked the streets of Toa Baja, simply exterior of San Juan, and Rincon, on the island’s western shoreline, kids and adults got here to the streets to greet the delegation, which included Gov. John Bel Edwards and representatives from the Puerto Rico governor’s workplace.

“Their spirit and sense of resiliency was wonderful to me. They had been so appreciative of the badistance they’re getting,” Waskom mentioned.

SAN JUAN — Gov. John Bel Edwards capped off a visit to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico on Tuesday with visits to a number of the hardest hit areas of…

States and U.S. territories share badets in instances of catastrophe by means of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have signed onto the mutual support settlement, which was ratified by Congress within the 1990s.

Under the EMAC, Puerto Rico pays Louisiana for all prices — Louisiana taxpayers aren’t choosing up the tab. After Puerto Rico pays the state, then its authorities can search federal reimbursement by means of its FEMA cost-share settlement.

For instance, it prices a median of about $450 per soldier per day to have Louisiana Guard members deployed in Puerto Rico, in line with the Governor’s Office.

When Curtis and Waskom visited, lots of the guardsmen had been in Puerto Rico for a month. While some had been beginning to head again to Louisiana, transportation has been unsure. Many weren’t certain precisely once they would be capable of return house.

“They went for the right reasons, and that’s to help those folks out,” Curtis mentioned. “They were sleeping on cots, didn’t have much running water and eating MREs (military Meals Ready to Eat), but they understand the reality of where they are. They get it.”

“They are great Americans — they are our soldiers and they know when it’s time to take care of people,” he added.

Louisiana had the same settlement with Texas after Hurricane Harvey this yr, with Louisiana National Guardsmen and regulation enforcement officers serving to with floodwater rescues and different restoration efforts.

SAN JUAN — With 1000’s of individuals nonetheless in shelters greater than a month after Hurricane Maria made landfall, Puerto Rico has launched its personal …

When a state experiences a declared catastrophe — man-made or pure — then the catastrophe help coordinators ship a request out to their counterparts in different states. Waskom mentioned he sees all the requests and evaluates them on a person foundation for quite a lot of elements, together with Louisiana’s personal threat throughout hurricane season and what numerous state businesses and a few native say that they’ll briefly spare. During protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline, deputies from St. Charles Parish offered help by means of the EMAC course of, Waskom mentioned. A request into consideration proper now would have New Orleans firefighters offering help in Puerto Rico in some unspecified time in the future.

Louisiana’s recognized for having one of many main EMAC coordinating groups within the nation, he mentioned.

After the request is acquired and vetted, the state responds with the main points of what badets it could actually provide and the way a lot it’ll value.

Edwards joined Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló for the launch of the Tu Hogar Renace, or STEP, home-owner help program that’s modeled after the Shelter at Home program Louisiana applied after catastrophic floods swept the state final yr.

GOHSEP deputy director Will Rachal spent a month working with Puerto Rico housing leaders to develop this system and acquired particular recognition throughout the information convention in Toa Baja at which this system was introduced.

One of the largest hurdles for Puerto Rico’s restoration is getting the provides wanted to rebuild to the island and the potential elevated prices related to that. It’s about 1,030 miles from Miami to San Juan. The port at New Orleans and entry to the Mississippi River is about 1,700 miles from San Juan.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Gov. John Bel Edwards and high catastrophe restoration leaders from his administration are touring to Puerto Rico this week…

“That alone is going to drive up the costs that FEMA will spend,” Waskom mentioned. “All those resources have to get to the island some way.”

Louisiana’s Shelter at Home was met with blended opinions after it was applied within the wake of final yr’s historic floods. FEMA agreed to regulate this system to Puerto Rico’s particular wants and to handle considerations raised by Louisiana leaders to enhance upon this system.

The price-per-household cap for Puerto Rico’s program has been set at $20,000, as an alternative of the $15,000 cap in Louisiana, largely due to anticipated transport wants. Additionally, householders could qualify for $7,000 in photo voltaic panels or a generator due to the island’s ageing energy grid.

Waskom mentioned one among his different considerations is in regards to the capability for contractors in Puerto Rico or bringing them in from different areas. Louisiana’s program had subcontractors from throughout the state and ultimately employed some from out of state to satisfy the wants of Shelter at Home.

“Every disaster is different,” Waskom mentioned. “I’ve been in this business since before 2000. You have to look at a wide range of programs for recovery.”

Waskom famous the impracticality of deploying manufactured housing models, generally known as FEMA cellular houses, to the island. FEMA spent about $130,000 for the acquisition, transportation and set up of every “manufactured housing unit” in Louisiana after the floods. More than 2,000 of them stay in use as flood victims proceed to work towards everlasting housing options.

“(Shelter at Home) is the cheapest out of the temporary shelter options,” Waskom mentioned. “We just think this is the most logical way to go.”

Curtis, after seeing the impression of hurricanes and floods in Louisiana and neighboring Gulf Coast states, mentioned he thinks that the character of the development of many houses he noticed in Puerto Rico will ease the rebuilding course of.

Unlike most houses right here which have drywall interiors and wooden or carpet flooring, the houses the Louisiana delegation toured in Toa Baja, which took on eight toes of water in some locations, had been principally fabricated from concrete and stone.

“They are going to have a long way to go,” Waskom mentioned. “It was such a large storm, and to exacerbate that, it’s an island, so getting things there is going to be a struggle.”

Waskom mentioned he was struck by the dimensions of devastation on the island. As his aircraft approached Puerto Rico on the night of Oct. 28, a lot of the island was darkish besides pockets of sunshine — the most important of which was San Juan.

“There’s a long way to go,” Waskom mentioned.

Curtis echoed his considerations.

Louisiana’s state-wide donation drive to help hurricane victims in Puerto Rico has collected 100 pallets of products that can be shipped to the island.

“The electrical infrastructure is what concerns me probably the most,” Curtis mentioned. “How do you reestablish almost a complete power grid on the island of Puerto Rico? That’s going to be a long-term project.”

Curtis was additionally struck by the impression on the island’s transportation infrastructure.

“You have to figure out how do you prioritize that and get the right equipment there to take care of it,” he mentioned.

Curtis, who has led the Louisiana National Guard since 2011, served as chief of employees for the Joint Forces Headquarters within the speedy aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, after serving in Iraq.

He mentioned he was touched by the optimism towards restoration that he noticed in Puerto Rico.

“They had such a positive attitude about where they are and where they are headed. That really struck a chord with me,” Curtis mentioned.

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