Very large segments of my state are or have very recently been under water.
30 of our 64 parishes have declared disaster. In Denham Springs, one city alone, over 100,000 of about 130,000 residents have damage to their homes. A third of the homes in the parish I live in are affected. Statewide, over 30,000 people had to be rescued from the rising waters; at least half of those went to shelters. This totals to about 40,000 homes impacted and, that we currently know of, 11 dead and many still unaccounted for.
I, personally, am safe, as so is my father’s house and everyone who lives in it.
Many of my friends and family members aren’t so lucky.
Why and how did this happen? There was very heavy rain for several days at a time (to the tune of 10 to 17 inches in some areas). Rivers, bayous, and lakes overflowed. Levees topped over, and some ruptured. Pumps stopped working adequately or were turned off before greater damage reached them. The mayor of the city of Walker claims that construction on the interstate created a “bowling” effect on the city and contributing to the flooding. After the flooding, there was backflooding, or waters shifting directions on their way out of the affected area.
I’m sure that there will be more news about more devastation and more need in the days and weeks following the publication of this post.
In the meantime, here is what you can do to help at the moment, if you’re so inclined (and we could really, really use the help).
If you are local to the area (or can get to the area) and can navigate safely:
Connect to social media outlets. There are several Facebook groups devoted to helping, such as Louisiana Flood Rescue–August 2016, The Great Flood of Louisiana 2016, and The Cajun Army. Scroll through their posts and see what needs to be done and where. Check out volunteerlouisiana.gov. You can also call the Red Cross at 225-450-1024 or your local sherrif’s office.
There are houses to be gutted, houses to be rebuilt, items to be hauled and dumped, items to be distributed, food to be prepared and served, animals and children to be tended to, counseling to be given, roads to be cleaned, schools and businesses to be repaired, and so much more to be done.
Rescue and recovery missions are still going on (though, at the time of posting this article, I suspect that they’ve dwindled down quite a bit).
If you want to help remotely:
Spread information about what happened and what can be done to help.
The Red Cross, as it often is, is accepting monetary donations. Several local churches are as well. And there are of course several affected families asking for help on sites like Youcaring and Gofundme.
If you are able to ship items, many local shelters (such as the Lamar Dixon Expo Center, the field house of LSU Campus, the Fellowship Church in Prairieville, and the numerous Red Cross shelters across the state, among multiple others) need baby formula, food, pet food, toiletries, clothing, shoes, undergarments, towels, blankets, matches, water, and just about anything that you can send. One local resident is collecting school uniforms (in this area, that entails navy polo shirts, khaki bottoms and dresses, white, black, or blue socks, blue, black, or brown belts, closed-toe shoes, and, of course, underwear). You can also email Louisianafloodrelief@gmail.com for information on where to bring items.
Advocate for better drainage systems and a more efficient management of pumps and levees (admittedly, our state has done a lot of work in this area over the past few decades, and the people who have made this work possible are worthy of praise. But as with anything, there is work still to be done).
Advocate for a more cohesive emergency plan with a better management of volunteers. There were many volunteers operating without guidance and who had loads of rescued people and no idea where to bring them. There were areas where willing and able people with boats ready who had to wait hours before they could help due to the group having a total of five spare radios between them.
Advocate for the engineers and architects of today and tomorrow to have the resources and training available to build even more flood-resistant structures.
If you live in an area where flood-prevention and flood-management work effectively, get in touch with our elected officials, our departments, our Secretary of State and the offices that fall under that, our congressmen, our governor’s office, and tell them what works for your area and how. Spread knowledge and share innovation.
Louisiana and its residents have done a great job dealing with the flood. Local and national disaster relief services and law enforcement have done incredible work. But we can hopefully do more to prevent these types of floods in the future and respond even more quickly when they do happen.
Thank you for listening, and thank you for caring.