As a regular session of the Legislature opens today in a season of deeply partisan division, flooding across Louisiana is a sobering reminder that when Mother Nature unleashes her worst, her wrath knows no party.
The return of sunlight on Sunday was a brilliant relief for a state deluged for days with showers that pounded north Louisiana first, the rising waters leaving many residents homeless. The same fate eventually touched residents of southeast Louisiana, too, with the Florida parishes of St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Livingston and Washington parishes hit especially hard. Three people in Louisiana have died as a result of the flooding. While the drier weather is welcome, it shouldn’t leave anyone with the impression that the disaster is over. High water remains, and flooding-related damage will be in the millions.
Ever since Hurricane Katrina’s images of houses swamped to the rooftops, the sight of any flood damage in Louisiana brings back powerful memories of what we’ve weathered as a state. Katrina, Rita, Isaac and other meteorological calamities affirmed a compelling truth: Suffering in any part of Louisiana touches us all. It’s up to those of us not directly harmed by the flooding to do what we can to help our fellow Louisiana residents rebound.
Louisiana’s first responders already have acknowledged that obligation in what appears to be a swift initial reaction to the crisis. Police officers, firefighters, wildlife and fisheries agents, social workers, road crews, shelter operators and many others have been working hard to help advance public safety. If there is any silver lining in the state’s bitter history with storms, perhaps it’s the prospect that experience with previous disasters has made us better prepared to handle this one.
Without doubt, the damage from this month’s flooding will be extensive. Estimates of the impact still are in flux, but in Tangipahoa Parish alone, Parish President Robby Miller predicted that the flood could cost more than Hurricane Isaac, which did $13.5 million in damage in that parish.
As the aftermath is assessed across Louisiana, the price tag from this weather system surely will mushroom, underscoring the urgency of a strong federal role in helping the state recover. In spite of party differences, we hope that Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana’s congressional delegation can work closely with the Obama administration to secure whatever federal resources are needed.
In a year of deepening skepticism about the role of government, this month’s flood — and the mighty flood of government workers who came out to help residents in their darkest hour — provided a useful reminder of the good that government can do.
It’s a lesson worth remembering as the Legislature begins pondering today what kind of government Louisiana should have — and how we’re going to pay for it.