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We still don’t know how to talk about floods
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Trump declares emergency for Louisiana as the state braces for possible Harvey-related flooding

Many drainage pumps in New Orleans are still nonoperational, as Louisiana braces for flooding. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

As Houston and its surrounding areas in Texas grappled with Tropical Storm Harvey on Sunday night, neighboring Louisiana braced for its own possible flooding.

On Monday, President Trump declared a state of emergency for Louisiana and ordered federal assistance to supplement response efforts to the storm, beginning Aug. 27 and continuing. Trump’s action allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) had asked Trump in a statement on Sunday for assistance, citing the National Weather Service’s warning that coming rainfall could pose “serious danger to life and property of the citizens of our state.”

“Additional rainfall amounts of 15 to 25 inches are expected in southwestern Louisiana, with rainfall amounts of 5 to 15 inches expected in south-central Louisiana,” the National Weather Service said in a news release Sunday night.

“I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective recovery is beyond the capabilities of the state and local governments and that supplemental federal assistance is necessary,” Edwards said in the statement. He issued a statewide emergency Aug. 24, and he “directed the execution of the State Emergency Operations Plan.”

Full extent of Harvey’s aftermath starts to come into chilling focus

After meeting with the South West Hurricane Task Force on Sunday morning, Edwards also issued a statement warning Louisiana residents to remain vigilant for the next few days.

“This storm is wreaking havoc along the Gulf Coast,” Edwards said. “It is critically important for the people of Louisiana, particularly those in southwest Louisiana, to recognize that we are not out of the woods.”

He continued, adding that “Louisiana will remain in this storm’s path for the next week, from Southwest Louisiana to North Louisiana. Forecasts show this storm system making its way closer to Louisiana over the next 48 hours and causing heavy rainfall and potentially life threatening flooding.”

Edwards’s remarks come after a waterlogged year for Southern Louisiana, which recently faced multiple devastating floods.

South-central Louisiana was devastated by an unnamed flood in August 2016, which Edwards called the “third largest disaster in the country’s history.” The floodwaters killed at least 11 people, according to The Washington Post.

Days of rain swallowed roads and tens of thousands of buildings in water throughout Louisiana. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber estimated that about 110,000 homes, valued at $20.7 billion, were damaged in the floodwaters, the Baton Rouge Advocate reported.

In his Sunday statement, the governor also evoked Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall 12 years ago Tuesday, while pledging to help Texas through the storm.

“Nearly 12 years ago, Texans opened their doors to the people of Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina devastated our state. Since then, we’ve turned to them for assistance time and again,” Edwards said. “In 2016, Texas Taskforce 1 was dispatched to our state to provide support during the historic floods. We will do nothing less to support to the people of Texas in any way that we can as they respond and recover from Hurricane Harvey.”

About three weeks ago, much of New Orleans was covered in several feet of water after a thunderstorm poured about nine inches of rain into the city and overwhelmed the city’s drainage pipe system, which removes floodwaters from the city.

Much of the system was rendered nonoperational. The floodwater took “14 hours to drain” and prompted “200 ‘life-threatening’ emergency calls,” The Post’s Tim Craig reported.

The city still remains somewhat vulnerable. Its drainage pumps still aren’t working at full capacity. Though they came back online Friday, reported, many of them remain nonoperational.

“Today, 106 of 120 pumps are working,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said at a news conference Sunday. “While in fact the drainage capacity has improved since Aug. 5, we remain in a state of diminished draining capacity.”

“We have more than enough to handle what we think is coming our way, based on the forecast right now,” Landrieu added.

But the mayor also said, “Massive amounts of rain in a short period of time will continue to cause us problems,” according to the Baton Rouge Advocate.

This post has been updated.

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