Baton Rouge Flood Victims Get a Helping Hand from New Orleans, August 2016

August 28th, 2016

Baton Rouge helped out those hit by Hurricane Katrina 11 years ago. Now, Katrina survivors are returning the favor.

Beckie Strum
Updated Aug. 26, 2016 5:52 p.m. ET

Lifelong New Orleans resident Connie Uddo started calling old friends and gathering volunteers when she heard deadly floodwaters were pouring into thousands of homes in Baton Rouge, La.
“The people of New Orleans, they really see how important it is to pay it back and pay it forward, because it was the volunteers who clearly rebuilt our city after Katrina,” said Ms. Uddo, a homemaker who turned community organizer after Hurricane Katrina flooded the first floor of her three-story home in 2005.
This weekend, she will join waves of fellow Katrina survivors equipped with hammers and wheelbarrows to pitch in in the Baton Rouge area. Some are still rebuilding their own flooded homes a decade after Katrina.
“That’s neighbors helping neighbors,” said Ms. Uddo, now head of local nonprofit Nola Tree Project, which is sending 200 volunteers to Baton Rouge this weekend.

Rescue and recovery efforts are under way in southern Louisiana, days after heavy rains brought massive flooding to the region. At least 40,000 homes have been damaged and at authorities say 11 people have died.

President Barack Obama visited Baton Rouge, La., on Tuesday afternoon to inspect areas hit by unprecedented flooding. The president’s visit comes as federal authorities promised more funding to assist with the recovery effort.

Flooding in southern Louisiana has destroyed or damaged at least 60,000 homes since a storm earlier this month ripped through Baton Rouge and its neighboring parishes, a part of the state that has been historically safe from flood damage. Around 80% of the damaged homes didn’t have flood insurance, several aid organizations said.
Eleven years ago, Baton Rouge became a haven for Katrina refugees and a base camp for volunteers heading south to help rebuild New Orleans. Now, the flow has reversed.
More than half of the volunteers signed up at All Hands Volunteers, an international nonprofit cleaning out and gutting homes in Denham Springs east of Baton Rouge, are from New Orleans or another Katrina-battered city, Biloxi, Miss., said Sherry Buresh, the organization’s director of U.S. disasters.

Ms. Joseph, 50, and her family were also caught in Katrina, and now she is relying on the experience of her uncle to help her gut and repair her damaged home. She has watched for a decade as her uncle, Errol Joseph, a 65-year-old contractor, wrangled with state agencies and drained his savings to rebuild his home in New Orleans Lower Ninth Ward.

“Now the shoe’s on the other foot,” said Ms. Joseph, whose uncle has pitched in tools, advised on remediation, and negotiated with her insurers.

“I told her, ‘Protect your money. Make copies of every receipt, every document that you receive from any entity.’ So many people aren’t knowledgeable enough,” said Mr. Joseph, who is still rebuilding his own home in New Orleans.

“It’s been a rough road for us, but without the help of volunteers we would not have been able to get as far as we’ve gotten,” he said.