Army Corps of Engineers’ Blue Roofs program helps patch homes damaged by Ida

Contractors from the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) continue to perform free Blue Roof installations for homeowners affected by Hurricane Ida.

Contractors from the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) continue to perform free Blue Roof installations for homeowners affected by Hurricane Ida. (Daniel Rojas/US Army Corps of Engineers)

NEW ORLEANS (Tribune News Service) – Temporary tarps fluttered on rooftops in Southeast Louisiana, makeshift spots for the holes left by Hurricane Ida two weeks ago, on Sunday.

Those makeshift defenses were tested for the first time on Sunday by rain and a brisk breeze, as the residents who put them on their rooftops await the sturdier option offered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps’ Blue Roofs program, which offers a free and more substantial alternative to keeping the rain out until permanent repairs can be made, has been slow to take off after Ida. Between Wednesday, when the first roof was installed on a home in New Orleans East, and Saturday, just over 100 of the heavy-duty tarps were in place.

The program always takes a few days to run at full capacity, said Lisa Parker, chief of public affairs for the Mississippi Valley Division of the Corps. On the first day, which was Wednesday, contractors will only have to finish one roof, but the force expects to be able to fully roll in a few days, she said.

Within the next week, the force expects to pick up the pace with three contractors and numerous subcontractors on the job, Parker said. Corps officials said earlier this week they hope to install up to 800 roofs per day when the program is fully underway.

“We want to try to protect as many homes, as many properties as possible,” Parker said.

On Saturday, there were applications for blue roofs for about 50,000 homes in the state, and 47,000 of those applications had been validated, according to the Corps. Based on aerial photos taken after Ida, the force estimates that up to 80,000 buildings will need temporary roofing.

Rolling out the program on such a wide-ranging disaster poses challenges, as contractors have struggled to obtain fuel and find housing for their workforce at a time when many others — including utilities and other disaster relief workers — are also experiencing these challenges. have used resources, Parker said. She also noted that the programs’ efforts could be hampered by bad weather in the future: Rain or winds over 50 mph will force work to halt.

Corps roofs are more durable than just a standard tarpaulin. Constructed from industrial-strength plastic sheets and securely attached to the house, they are designed to last at least a month and keep out rain even in extreme conditions.

One of the key tests of that design took place last year, when Hurricane Delta made landfall in southwestern Louisiana, where many homes were protected by the blue roofs installed after Hurricane Laura.

“Delta was the first storm to come through as a Category 2 (through an area where there were blue roofs) and 87% of the roofs came through well, as if they were installed that same day,” Parker said.

Residents have until September 30 to register for the program. Anyone in the 25 parishes eligible for disaster relief can apply for one.

Roof applications can be made online at blueroof.us or by calling 1-888-766-3258.

While they wait, Parker said residents should secure their homes as best they can. Contractors with the program will remove all other temporary tarps as part of their job.

“Anything they can do now, if they have a tarp, plastic, anything they can do now to protect their roof, go ahead and do it,” Parker said.

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