Local government officials estimated Tuesday that nearly 53,000 residences, 3,800 commercial buildings and 1,800 public buildings in East Baton Rouge Parish alone flooded amid storms and high water that swept through the region last week — the first estimate that is more concrete in its measurement than the Baton Rouge Area Chamber’s numbers, which also were updated on Tuesday.
The city-parish’s geographic information systems department has been mapping the extent of flood inundation for the past few days. They stressed that their numbers are still preliminary but said they are based on calls for search and rescue, calls for sewer service, information from floodplain maps, public input and more.
Similar estimates of the number of structures damaged by flooding in surrounding parishes, many of which were hard hit, are not yet available.
While city-parish officials are still conducting their full damage assessment, GIS Manager Warren Kron said Tuesday that the flooding they have mapped is “a pretty good guess” at how many structures across the parish had floodwaters reach them after devastating storms starting slamming the parish August 12.
The Baton Rouge Area Chamber has also been using maps of floodplains and neighborhoods to project how many homes and businesses may have been affected by floods, but their data has more caveats than the city-parish’s.
BRAC’s numbers are only meant to be a tally of the potential magntiude of the flood — versus the city-parish’s interpretation of how many places actually did flood — and BRAC has steered clear of deeming their numbers a damage assessment. BRAC has used data from the city-parish to help attain its assessments as well.
The city-parish’s latest numbers as of late Tuesday show that they estimate 52,944 residential structures flooded, 3,839 commercial buildings flooded and 1,775 public facilities flooded in East Baton Rouge parish. While the numbers fluctuated constantly over the first few days they started mapping it, Kron said, the changes have started to taper off.
The city-parish map, available online, allows people to type in their addresses and see whether their homes and neighborhoods have been marked as flooded. The city-parish’s geographic information services department is encouraging people to contact them via Facebook or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to let them know where the map has inaccuracies.
“We want information about your entire street or neighborhood rather than just, ‘my home didn’t flood,'” Kron said.
Kron said that the city-parish flood maps continue to be updated as debris pickup begins, which his department is also mapping and tracking in real time. Debris pickup in neighborhoods can help show where flooding happened, he said.
The city-parish also has workers doing survey damage assessments by measuring water lines on homes that flooded to give them a more accurate picture of how much flooding areas received.
BRAC’s first assessment last week found that the number of homes with the potential to have been affected by recent floods across the whole region was 31 percent. Their updated number on Tuesday showed a dramatic increase, with their second analysis predicting that 41.5 percent of homes in the nine-parish region were in areas affected by floods.
Their updated numbers predict that more than 145,000 homes worth $30.4 billion could have flooded across East Baton Rouge, Livingston, Ascension, East Feliciana, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana. But their estimate that just 15 percent of those homes were insured against flooding has stayed the same.
BRAC said the dramatic increase in their projected numbers is because they incorporated flooding data from hard-hit areas of Baker, Zachary and south Baton Rouge that were excluded from their preliminary report.
“The biggest difference is the East Baton Rouge numbers increased significantly,” said Ansley Zehnder, BRAC’s vice president of marketing. She said their numbers will continue to fluctuate as more data becomes available.
BRAC’s estimates of how many businesses had the potential to be affected by flooding have also increased, with them now projecting 34.8 percent of businesses in the Capital Region may have been affected.
Overall, BRAC continues to find that Livingston Parish was slammed the hardest by the rains and floods, with 86.6 percent of homes there being in places where water pooled.