The last two weeks have been consumed by rain with intervals of frustrating heat. It was strange for me, especially knowing that a few miles away a flood had devastated parts of Baton Rouge and surrounding parishes (20 Louisiana parishes were designated as federal disaster areas by FEMA), while my house was sitting untouched in New Orleans. There was ongoing rain and large puddles nearby but nothing serious. My parents were worried about me after seeing reports of homes under water and people rowing boats. I had missed their calls during that weekend, making them more worried, but I eventually called them back to tell them I was safe. They were under the impression that New Orleans had also flooded. I would not know what to do if that was the case. I guess my desk would float or we would be evacuated (this is probably the best scenario).
During the week I did have some troubling dreams, including me wandering around with my dad and sister during a flood, wondering why we didn’t have boats when everyone else seemed prepared. We managed to climb our way out of the flood through a solid ladder that later turned into a cloth ladder and almost ripped when I was climbing. We made our way up to the balcony of a marble building. Days later, my sister texted me: you need to get a boat.
The damage in Louisiana wasn’t a result of heavy winds like Hurricane Katrina, but record rainfall. Also outdated infrastructure couldn’t hold the heavy amounts of rain, and failed to drain water out of the streets. The storm brought 7.1 trillion gallons of rain to Louisiana, three times more than during Katrina. Local rivers like Amite and Comite had record water levels causing the biggest flood since Sandy. Some 20,000 people were rescued and about 110,000 homes were damaged. The Advocate investigated the deaths of 13 people who lost their lives; some swept by the storm while in their cars, others swam for safety, but didn’t make it.
Days after the flood, everyone was trying to out figure how to respond; whether to donate to bigger non-profits like the Red Cross or to local businesses and residents who could easily navigate the area and get resources to BR and surrounding areas quicker than national organizations. On Facebook and twitter, people posted photos and videos of how they were helping to evacuate folks with their boats. Some had cookouts or donated food. I saw a video on twitter of trucks hurrying along i10 to get to BR. Even a basketball team showed up to help. People are amazing.
Questions arose about what kind of things to donate. What was appropriate during an emergency? Some local bars and art galleries also held fundraisers where they collected a list of goods and money to donate.
By now most of the water has receded, but up until a day or two there were areas still submerged. At this point affected parishes are in recovery mode, as people try to rebuild their homes, try to get back to normalcy which won’t be for a while. If you’re in the area, and want to lend a hand, there are many local organizations setting up volunteers. This is something I want to be doing in the next couple of weeks. Natural disasters get a lot of attention at first then fade from the news cycle, but the people of Louisiana are still in need: check out these organizations accepting donations.
The conversation surrounding the floods has expanded to infrastructure problems. Scientific American explores how BR and other cities need to modernize their drainage system in order to face future storms that will be exasperated by global warming. As the earth heats up, more moisture is produced which increases average rainfall, making future floods more likely. The occurrence of floods also become more likely when coastlines erode and wetlands that normally mitigate floods and soak rainfall disappear. As Louisiana continues to allow offshore oil drilling, these natural buffers zones will disappear making it hard for residents to continue living near the gulf, as the The Times-Picayune reports.