The floods of 2016 didn't just swamp houses and businesses across swaths of Louisiana, but also hurt many people who lost income because of job disruptions, according to a new Community Resilience Study conducted by LSU's Manship School of Mass Communication and released Wednesday.
More than one-fourth of survey respondents statewide were directly affected by the severe weather in either the springtime or August, including either flooding losses or their income being affected, and that number is almost double for residents polled in the greater Baton Rouge area, according to the study.
"The storms impacted Louisiana residents beyond flooding of residence," the report says. "Thirty percent of Louisiana adults reported that their employment was disrupted by the flooding, and 19 percent indicated that this disruption affected their earnings."
Those numbers were even worse in the Baton Rouge metro area — defined as East Baton Rouge, Ascension and Livingston Parishes — with more than half of residents saying their work was disrupted because of the flooding and one-third lost income.
"We wanted to see other ways that people may have been impacted beyond damages to homes," said Mike Henderson, the director of LSU's public policy research lab, which conducted the survey designed by the Manship School. "We were hoping to find some other ways people engaged in this experience; we hadn't seen numbers on that sort of thing."
The study analyzed data from more than 1,000 respondents on landline and cell phone calls in early 2017 with Louisiana adults, focusing on the tumultuous events of the summer, and for this report, the springtime. Flooding hit northern Louisiana in spring, and then in August more than 20 inches fell in the state's southeast region, up to 30 inches in some parts.
The report notes their findings indicate many more people flooded compared to other data sources — like FEMA's count of homeowners with flood losses — which the researchers believe is because the flood more broadly affected Louisianans than previously suggested. Researchers are clear that some differences in numbers could also be attributed to misreporting from respondents, though the report's margin of error for statewide numbers is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, while numbers focused on the Baton Rouge metro area are plus or minus 5.2 percentage points.
The first part of the Community Resilience Study focused on policing, protests and racial equality.
"Statewide, individuals with lower household incomes disproportionately reported flooded homes," the study says. "Similarly, individuals with lower household incomes were more likely to report their incomes had been affected by work disruption as a result of the storms."
Those numbers were even more stark looking at low-income residents who flooded in the Baton Rouge metro area, with almost 45 percent of people earning less than $25,000 reporting residential flooding, compared to around 30 percent of all other income-levels. However, Baton Rouge area residents were similarly affected by flooding across income levels.
"Data is important so we can know what's going on in the world," Henderson said.
Henderson said they weren't entirely surprised by the numbers knowing how widespread and disruptive the flooding had been, but he hopes their data shows a bigger picture of the entire impact of the weather events.
They also found one-fourth of greater Baton Rouge residents took someone into their home who needed shelter, and 14 percent of people did the same across the state.
"It kind of helps reminds us that a lot of us were in this boat together," Henderson said. "This has been a shared experience in a lot of ways... we shared our homes, it brought out some good."
The study also found that Louisianans on the whole thought the state responded better to their crises, compared to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Statewide, respondents rated FEMA at an average of 53 on a 100 scale, while the state was slightly higher at 61.
In the Baton Rouge metro area, respondents thought FEMA did even worse, with an average 41 ranking, much further behind their state government ranking of 54, the study found.