President Obama Comforts |Victims of Historic La. Flood

     NEW ORLEANS (CN) — President Barack Obama visited Baton Rouge Tuesday to survey historic flooding in the area that damaged more than 60,000 houses, left 14 dead and has so far resulted in 100,000 FEMA claims.
     Upon his arrival on Air Force One, the president took a ten minute drive to Zachary, one of the communities devastated by the more than two feet of rain that fell over central Louisiana last week.
     From there, he and his caravan entered Castle Place, a neighborhood of modest brick homes in East Baton Rouge Parish. (Louisiana has parishes instead of counties.)
     The president and the staffers and elected officials who joined him on the tour drove through streets littered with piles of debris awaiting pickup. Flood-soaked toys and mattresses, crumbling furniture even a warping violin sat atop the heaps of discarded personal belongings piled outside of each house.
     To those with long memories, the scene was reminiscent of driving along the Gulf Coast in the months following Hurricane Katrina.
     Obama got out of the car in one driveway and could be seen hugging the residents of a flooded house.
     “How y’all doing?” the president said as he embraced the tired and careworn.
     “I know it’s tough now,” he continued. “I wish I was coming in better times.”
     Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards last week asked the president to delay his tour of the disaster area long enough to ensure that affected roadways would have reopened and police officers necessary to escort the president’s caravan would not need to be taken away from their disaster response duties.
     Ordinarily, this would have occurred without public explanation. However, Edwards’ was forced to explain the president’s perceived absence from the disaster zone after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump visited the area last week.
     Trump’s decision to tour the flood zone allowed the GOP to seize on the fact the president and his family were vacationing in Massachusetts, and try to make a political issue of it.
     The governor said on Monday that he was thankful Trump’s visit had brought attention to the plight of flood victims and that he was sure President Obama’s tour of the area would do the same.
     Obama went into house after house Tuesday to survey the damage. At one point he was seen shaking hands with a younger man who was wearing a face mask to protect from fumes.
     The heat index for the area Tuesday was well over 100 and the president could be seen sweating as he hugged families and offered comfort.
     He was also overheard asking one family how high the water came up. When a man answered four feet, Obama replied, “That’s why you gotta listen when they tell you to get out.”
     Little kids approached the president and he bent down to ask their ages and names. To a shy five-year-old Obama said, “Oh no, now come say hi to me!”
     The president hugged the child’s mother and together they walked into the house.
     Obama introduced some families to their local and state elected officials. He could be overheard asking families if they had applied for FEMA relief.
     More than 60,000 homes have been damaged by the flood that lasted days. During his tour of the area, Obama said more than 100,000 people had applied for disaster aid and that FEMA had already spent $127 million responding to the crisis.
     While in the Baton Rouge area, Obama also met with Bruce Simmons, an East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s deputy who was wounded during the July 17 shooting by Gavin Long of Kansas City that left three other officers dead and three critically wounded.
     The president also reportedly met with the family of 37-year-old Alton Sterling, a black man who was shot to death July 5 by white police.
     This has been a tough summer for Louisiana residents, and Obama has faced sharp criticism for weeks by some who said he should have visited sooner.
     Video footage of Alton Sterling’s July 5 shooting death at the hands of white police immediately landed on social media, sparking international outrage over police brutality.
     When, two-weeks later, three officers were shot to death by Gavin Long, many people again called for President Obama to visit. He did not come to Louisiana, but Vice-President Joe Biden visited Baton Rouge July 28, taking a break from the Democratic National Convention, to speak at a memorial service held in honor of the fallen Baton Rouge Police Officers Matthew Gerald, Montrell Jackson, and East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brad Garafola.

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