U.S. Coast Guard

Though most of the city dodged a bullet from Hurricane Gustav, some sections of New Orleans near the Gulf of Mexico were flooded on Monday. The hurricane produced widespread power losses that affected more than 1.4 million households, causing billions of dollars in damage to both homes and businesses. On Tuesday, more than 11,000 rescue workers were trying to restore power, first to hospitals. More than a million Louisiana households were without power in the wake of the storm.

Roughly 340 U.S. Army Corps of Engineer workers rushed immediately to the scene to aid recovery efforts, restoring emergency power, clearing trees and debris from roads, and assisting with temporary housing. By Wednesday, more than 2 million residents were seeking to return home from the emergency evacuation ordered on Aug. 30.

Estimates of insurance damage ranged from $2 billion to $10 billion, which would still be a far cry from the $41 billion paid by insurance companies for damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.

The city’s levees generally survived the storm because the hurricane didn’t provide as big of a hit as initially feared and the government had spent billions of dollars to put in place new protections that are only half-way complete. Specifically, contractors have restored 220 miles of floodwalls, reinforcing them at critical junctures, according to estimates from the Associated General Contractors of America.

“There are, however, still gaps in the system and some areas of the Gulf Coast remain vulnerable,” said the AGC. “Contractors are now half-way through a six-year project to provide New Orleans with 100-year level of hurricane and storm damage reduction by 2011.”

The Corps of Engineers estimates that homeowners will require nearly 25,000 emergency tarps to serve as temporary roofs. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is already mobilizing support for homeowners and low-income renters forced from their homes by the hurricane. A presidential disaster declaration, HUD says, automatically triggers a variety of federal assistance programs including grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

NAHB announced its commitment to helping provide disaster relief to people who suffered a loss of property or livelihood. NAHB President Sandy Dunn, sending a statement from the Republican National Convention, said the organization would ask its Housing Industry Victims Relief Fund to provide resources to those in need.

“While we are here at the convention, we will focus our efforts on fundraising to help families and communities affected by the massive storm and those who face the potential of further property losses from Hurricane Hanna. In addition, NAHB, its state and local associations, and its members will work with local officials to assist in rebuilding efforts in areas that have been hit hard by the hurricane.”

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