Louisiana flood victims still reeling from damage; Obama pledges to rebuild

BATON ROUGE, La. -- President Obama visited the capital of Louisiana on Tuesday as the city and many other parts of the state are still struggling with the damage caused by the widespread flooding of recent weeks that have claimed 13 lives.

It's going to be a long recovery process for Baton Rouge. Over the past three days, as flood waters subside, residents have been gutting their homes, setting out their possessions that have been damaged and piling them up into walls of debris on the curbside.

It could take up to three months to clear out all the debris from the more than 60,000 homes with flood damage. About 110,000 residents have filed for federal aid. Many are expressing outrage with their insurance after thinking all along that they were fully covered, only to find out now that it's not the case.

President Barack Obama toured the flood-ravaged city on Tuesday, surveying wreckage and speaking with state and city leaders.

"We are heartbroken by the loss of life," Obama said after seeing firsthand the damage in the state's capital. "I think anybody who can see just the streets, much less the inside of the homes here, people's lives have been upended by this flood."

Obama is also expected to meet with family members of police officers killed in last month's Baton Rouge attack, a source with knowledge of the President's schedule told CNN.

The city's newspaper, "The Advocate," originally criticized the President for not ending his vacation in Martha's Vineyard immediately to visit the region. But the editorial board praised his decision to come Tuesday.

"We welcome news of President Barack Obama's planned visit to Louisiana today to survey flood damage, which should help to advance relief and recovery in the disaster area as a national priority," the editorial board wrote.

While city and state leaders, and President Obama himself, announce plans to rebuild, many folks are focusing on getting their own personal affairs in order.

"Our leaders weren't really doing anything, but I'm not obsessed with that right now. I don't care about that, I want to get my stuff out. I want to get my home back to where it was," one Baton Rouge resident said.

Although others are grateful for exposure, saying that Obama's visit shines a much-needed spotlight on the state's plight.

"Any big political figure that visits draws attention to the situation we're in, so I think it's good for anybody to come here," one man said.

Local hotels in Baton Rouge are sold out. More than 2,800 people are in shelters; many are still sleeping in their cars until they can get FEMA assistance.

Some local schools won't open until Sept. 6 because they're dealing with mold.

At the same time, many members of the community are focusing on the men and women they see as heroes: those out there sandbagging, performing water rescues, or distributing food to those in need.

One charity from right here in the Kansas City metro is down in Louisiana now doing their part to help out the flood victims.

Operation Barbecue Relief, who recently appeared on FOX 4 News, is made up of barbecue teams from eight different states, including right here in KC. They travel to areas affected by disasters and provide free barbecue meals to people in need.

They are pumping out between 20,000 - 30,000 meals per day. In all, they have served nearly a million people since their founding in 2011, after the devastating tornado in Joplin. Since then, they have served over 800,000 meals in nineteen different states.