ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
In Southern Louisiana, waters are receding. Towns are beginning to dry out, and people are starting to take stock. An estimated 40,000 homes have been damaged by the record flooding. Tegan Wendland of member station WWNO visited the town of Denham Springs. It's just outside Baton Rouge. There, more than 80 percent of homes were flooded and cleanup has just begun.
TEGAN WENDLAND, BYLINE: As the fog lifted this morning, residents began streaming back to their single-story clapboard homes on Oak Street. It's usually a quiet residential area, but today loud generators are running, and yards are piled high with waterlogged furniture, carpet and trash. Khalli Hagan just finished renovating her home before the floods hit. Now her dad Jerry is here to help her rip out the floor they just put in.
JERRY HAGAN: Smells real good on that. I worked on this house for the last...
KHALLI HAGAN: Ten years.
J. HAGAN: ...Ten years, so...
WENDLAND: Kind of a bummer.
J. HAGAN: (Laughter) Yeah, it is.
K. HAGAN: But we can - we can redo this.
J. HAGAN: Yeah.
K. HAGAN: We can.
WENDLAND: Hagan's house is raised up on cinder blocks, so she only got about 6 inches of water inside. Most of her neighbors' homes had several feet. And unlike most people in Denham Springs, she had basic flood insurance.
The Britton's didn't. Just across the street, Danny Britton and his sister spent the morning hosing out the mud from their elderly parents house.
DANNY BRITTON: You know, we - we're trying to keep our parents away from here for right now 'cause it's just too stressful for them, and they are not physically able to do a whole lot. So maybe we can get it in order.
WENDLAND: The mayor of Denham Springs is Gerard Landry. He lives just down the street. I met him as a guy on a tractor pulled up and yelled for directions.
GERARD LANDRY: Where you going?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Over this way - can I get back there behind the school?
When you first walk on this street and there's just slimy mud everywhere and you see and smell fish, oil, gasoline, that's all the - that's all the contaminants that are in this water that just overflowed and took over the whole city. OK, look; there's some little girl's leopard-skin suitcase, OK? It's just hard to see.
WENDLAND: Landry's making his rounds, checking on neighbors. And his neighbors are checking on him, too. Terry Finley asks if his house was flooded as well.
TERRY FINLEY: Hi, good morning. How are you?
LANDRY: Fine, I'm doing fine. How are you?
FINLEY: Good. Good. Did y'all take water?
LANDRY: Yes, ma'am, we have water also. We have water. We'll get to it eventually.
FINLEY: (Unintelligible) I think, you know?
LANDRY: I know. We're going to get - we're going to get there. It's just devastating.
WENDLAND: He says for now he's just trying to make sure everyone's safe and accounted for. He finally received some food and fresh water he requested four days ago from a state agency. Most people still don't have electricity. He's keeping the overnight curfew in place to prevent looters.
And as people get back to their homes, they can file for federal assistance through FEMA and get up to $33,000. Terry Finley has already contacted FEMA for help, but she hasn't yet filed for insurance. She's been taking photos to document the damage.
FINLEY: Furniture I can replace, but my kids' pictures - my son is special needs. He has autism. And he's just a wonderful artist, and we lost probably everything that he's ever drawn. So that really upsets me, but you know...
WENDLAND: Are you going to draw your mom some more pictures?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Pretty much.
WENDLAND: As she drags wet living room furniture out to the curb, she says she's avoiding checking a photo album in a back room. She's afraid to find out if she's lost that, too. For NPR News, I'm Tegan Wendland in Denham Springs, La. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.