Today is the 6th Anniversary of Louisiana’s Great Flood of 2016
It's hard to believe, especially since we've been through so much together since then, that Louisiana's 'Great Flood' of 2016 started six years ago today.
And I say 'together' for a reason. Folks from all over Louisiana and neighboring states that weren't hit as bad mobilized immediately to help with rescue efforts. While this was in no way about me, a friend of mine organized a supply drive and I accompanied her when it was time for delivery. At the time I wrote about the experience and it's still just as impactful. I hope you'll indulge me. Maybe, when the next disaster hits, and it will, you'll lend a helping hand. You don't have to have any special training, just a heart. It takes a village to come together and rebuild.
Originally published August 19, 2016:
Yesterday, I got the opportunity through my friend Michelle Barr to help the folks in south Louisiana by delivering much-needed supplies. We've seen what they're going through on TV, but seeing it with your own eyes was completely different.
Before I go into everything we saw and experienced, I need to tell you about some amazing people right here in the Ark-La-Tex who are making a difference in the lives of families displaced by the recent flood. First off, thank you to Paul Davis from Paul's Farm and Garden for the generous donation of dog food and supplies. I'd also like to recognize and thank Dr. Bobby and Tracy Hewlett from Holly Hill Equestrian Center in Benton, LA for donating 60 bales of hay and then the countless others who dug deep and donated countless bags of feed and supplies. Michelle's trailer was loaded down and it was slow going on the way down to the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, LA south of Baton Rouge.
I didn't know what to expect when we arrived. I haven't spent much time in the Baton Rouge area other than going to LSU for games, camps, etc... We saw the first signs of water off the Ville Platte exit of I-49S. We wanted to fuel up our big rig because we didn't know if the diesel closer to Baton Rouge would have water in it. To our surprise, two of the gas stations were completely blocked. We can only assume they had been underwater at some point over the last week.
My friend Michelle is much more knowledgeable about the area as a former 20-year resident of Baton Rouge. She still has strong ties to the area, especially in the horse community as the owner and trainer of Right Lead Equestrian and as a former director at BREC. She was in Baton Rouge during Katrina and was heavily involved in the rescue and relief efforts based at Lamar Dixon. I mention Katrina because locals were making the comparison.
What was weird, especially to the locals, is that the areas where you would expect it to flood and still be holding water weren't, and the areas that had previously remained high and dry had experienced water to the rafters! One person I spoke with compared living in the area to 'living on top of a sponge.'
We saw spotty amounts of standing water along the Atchafalaya Basin and Morganza Spillway on 190. The Mississippi River wasn't nearly as high as we've seen it in the past, but the flooding got serious when we got south of Baton Rouge. One neighborhood off of La Hwy 30 was completely inaccessible with residents parking on the highway and going in on foot. Some roads along Hwy 30 remained closed. The LSU campus looked fine while driving down Nicholson but we did see one complex where it looked like drywall and fixtures had already been removed. Michelle thought it might have been married student housing in the past.
When we arrived at Lamar Dixon, the first things we saw were the Red Cross shelter signs and a military presence, including several military helicopters that I'm assuming were being used to transport supplies and rescue people. The large 4-H building and several others were filled with rows upon rows of cots. I didn't go in to take pictures because I figured the last thing these people needed were gawkers. Plus, we saw several black SUVs with tinted windows in that area of the complex. We heard it was either Governor John Bel Edwards or his wife visiting the evacuees.
And by evacuees, I mean both two and four-legged. WAFB estimated that Lamar Dixon was home to over 1,200 animals two days ago. I saw hundreds of folks staying at the center as well in RVs, camping in tents on the ground, staying in stalls with their horses and also in the Red Cross shelter on site.
Of course, there was a team of volunteers there and they were great when it came to unloaded the supplies we brought. There were people there who just wanted to help as well as members of the military from Belle Chasse. I met a lawyer who had been inviting flood victims into his home just to wash their clothes. I met another woman who had stayed out all night rescuing stranded goats with the Louisiana State Animal Response Team. God bless the people of Louisiana.
The main complaint I heard? The lack of attention from the national media regarding the dire situation in Louisiana.
My hat is off to Michelle Barr who organized all of the donations we brought down to the shelter. She mobilized a small army of friends and former students to make it happen.
I spoke to Katie Andersen from Double Rainbow Equestrian Center in Haughton last night and they're collecting donations as well and plan to take at least one trailer load down Sunday, but they're hoping to take two. They'd love to take any of your donations with them.
Things that are still needed:
cat and dog food
collars, leashes and kennels
feed for livestock