This weekend’s anniversary of 2016 flood is worthy of observance, although not as a piece of settled history. The flood, which did most of its damage on Aug. 13, 2016, isn’t simply a past event, but an ongoing challenge for the south Louisiana families and businesses swamped by the rising waters.
As a weeklong Advocate series made clear, Baton Rouge area residents have shown remarkable resilience in the wake of the flood, and many have rebounded. Even so, the unnamed storm that dumped some 32 consecutive hours of heavy rain on the region last summer continues to make its mark. Other families still aren’t home. A lot of flooded businesses have struggled. Some, if no longer physically underwater, are now financially so.
The people of Louisiana know from bitter experience that storm recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita taught us that. A year after last August’s floods, there is still much work to do.
Previous disasters also underscored the importance of an enduring reality: Broad recovery depends on a sustained partnership with the federal government. Gov. John Bel Edwards, drawing on damage estimates from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, asked Congress for about $4 billion in recovery assistance. So far, lawmakers have approved only about half of that.
A year after the devastating flood, we wanted to know how the disaster changed people's live…
Last summer’s disaster also highlighted how important it is for Louisiana residents to participate in the federal flood insurance program. Reauthorizing that program with a rate structure that can empower private investment in local communities and businesses should be a priority in Congress.
This month’s flooding in New Orleans brought a sobering reminder of our vulnerability to the forces of nature. Without affordable flood insurance and aggressive flood control, Louisiana cannot prosper. But too often, where the regional recovery has called for initiative, Washington, D.C., has answered with inertia instead.
One example is the Comite River Diversion Canal. For more than a decade and a half, some residents of East Baton Rouge, Ascension and Livingston parishes have taxed themselves to pay for a big chunk of the project, assuming the federal government would help out, too. But federal funding has been piecemeal, and the diversion project was still mostly incomplete when the heavy rains arrived last August. The canal could not have prevented the flood, but it could have reduced its impact.
As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump, accompanied by running mate Mike Pence, visited Baton Rouge after last year’s flood, their presence drawing a needed national spotlight on the disaster. A year later, Trump and Pence now lead America. We hope that they will work together with Congress to help move the recovery forward.
Moving forward, despite huge obstacles, takes courage, and we’ve seen a lot of that in Louisiana in the year since the waters rose. The deluge that came to be known as the Great Flood of 2016 reminded us of an abiding truth about this state and its people. The real greatness, as it turns out, rests in us.