The video above (found onhttp://www.azdownvideo.com/watch-aerials-of-baton-rouge-area-flooding/uWd3uDeAoXk.wtf ) is just a tiny snapshot of one of the largest natural disasters to hit southern Louisiana. A storm hitting from the Acadian area to the outskirts of Baton Rouge drowned the state in more water dropped by a storm since Hurricane Katrina. Yet, the rest of the country heard little of it. Thousands of homes flooded in feet of water, but there still was limited media coverage until over a week after the first deluge of water consumed Baton Rouge. Many flooded areas had never encountered the levels of water experienced that week and consequently had not flood insurance or escape out.
If you have ever been into a Louisiana home that has been flooded (image above provided by the New York Times), you can bypass this paragraph entirely. Many have not. Let me give you a visual of one of the homes I had the honor to help gut. As soon as you approach a flooded home, there is an array of muck on the front of the yard. Typically, in addition to a lovely layer of mud, there are various degrees of personal items from the home or from neighbors haphazardly strewn across a once manicured lawn. It does not take too many steps closer to the home itself for a distinct odor to reach your nose. Mildew and mold odors radiate from these sites. You walk into a kitchen and the floors are covered in thick mud in addition to still standing water. Being in a lovely southern state like Louisiana, the heat hangs in the air and mosquitoes (among spiders and other bugs) have found a new breeding ground. Depending on how high the water got, you see rotted out shelving and visible lines along walls where the water once stood. How did the pantry fare? In one house I visited the misfortune of flour being left on a low shelf was evident by dense layers of coagulated muck. Moving through the house into a living room the wooden floors are clearly rotting. The furniture is still damp and electronics might have been lucky enough to avoid waters, but most are completely useless. The bookshelf where family photos were kept? It sits cracked under the weight of heavy, torn paper. Heading to a bathroom there sits a bathtub, full of several-day-old water, and a not so adorable toad. All the expensive makeup that once served as a treat to prepare someone for a nice night out is strewn across a counter littered with junk that floated up. In the large closet nearby there luckily are one or two pieces of clothing tucked away atop a chest of drawers that doesn’t stink too terribly of mildew, but the rest carry an odor so strong that it would be easier just to get rid of them. But the truly terrible mess are behind the walls that hold these rooms together. Once these homes are emptied of every piece of furniture, flooring, drywall, and insulation have to be replaced for health reasons. As families tear up their own homes only with the help of other family members, friends, or local volunteers that can make their way through neighborhoods, they can only tear up certain parts of their houses until insurance adjusters document the destruction. Throughout this process families are left homeless, relying upon friends or shelters for places to sleep. I could continue to describe the misery of this process of destruction and rebuilding, but individuals all have their own stories to tell beyond the walls of their homes.
The wonderful spirit of Louisiana produced an outpouring of help within its own community. Several owners of boats affectionately labeled the “Cajun Navy,” ensured families were rescued from their homes during rising waters. Makeshift shelters popped up at local churches, community centers hosted supplies from affected families, and friends of those in need ensured friends had places to stay. While it is evident that Louisiana residents took care of their own during the disaster itself, the aftermath will impact the area for months, if not years to come.
Why should you still care? Imagine without notice your whole life was taken from you without warning. Your home essentially condemned. Every creature comfort that gets you through the day gone in a blink of an eye. Then imagine trying to rebuild your life after that. We are humans, and it is our obligation to help one another in need. We should still care because many citizens of Louisiana are not just rebuilding their homes, but also rebuilding their bank accounts, their pantries, their wardrobes, and their lost memories. Many can help themselves, but if we have an opportunity to make the process easier for them, shouldn’t we lend a hand? As a photographer, I intend to offer free portrait photography sessions to families that lost photos. Several friends helped take apart homes and spent time organizing a shelter. I have a friend that operates a jewelry business that is donating the proceeds of her sales to those in need. If you own a grocery store, perhaps offer a discount to a neighbor you know was impacted. If you are an athletic trainer, a slashed rate might be in order. We all worked together to keep people safe during the storm itself and the week after. Let’s keep that spirit alive and not forget the people around us.
Resources for flood relief can be found below, but if you know anyone impacted, be sure to ask them how you can lend a hand as well.