Thousands of residents in the state sustained major damage from August’s record flooding.
Shock, sorrow, devastation . . . these are only a few of the emotions overpowering the Louisiana victims during the past couple of weeks in the aftermath of massive flooding. The floodwaters, which covered much of the area around Baton Rouge is the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012.
While most of the nation’s media attention was focused on the Olympics or elsewhere, news spread via social media about the damage and the needs of those in the flood-stricken areas. Several people from Northeast Mississippi and the Baldwyn area heard the call for help and volunteered.
The majority of people heard of the Louisiana flooding through social media. Volunteers from several area churches made the trip to Louisiana. Thirteen members of Saltillo’s First Baptist Church went and volunteered their efforts in the destruction zone.
Richard Kimbrough, a certified public accountant in Baldwyn, was one of those from First Baptist Church Saltillo who went to help. He said the homes they worked on were in flood zones but had never experienced issues of this magnitude. Everything was removed from the homes and gutted down to the studs and concrete floors. Kimbrough also said he did not see any media coverage in the area they were working in.
“It was overwhelming,” said Kimbrough, “Scooping up children’s toys mixed in with wet sheetrock and insulation and dumping them into a wheel barrow and the reality that the family had no home to bring that little girl back to that night was extremely emotional.”
Monumental rain began to fall on August 8, 2016 in Louisiana. The rain continued to fall until August 14th. In and around Baton Rouge, at least twenty inches of rain fell between August 11th to 14th. Some parishes in the region received as much as two feet of rain in 48 hours. At times, the rain fell three inches or more in an hour.
Twenty parishes in Louisiana received a total of 6.9 trillion gallons of rain. All twenty parishes are now listed as disaster areas which means federal funding are available to help those communities. Thirteen people lost their lives in the flooding. Louisiana residents, even those whose homes were flooded, begin joining together to rescue people, pets, and farm animals. Every available water craft, tractor, trailer and machinery was put to use to aid in the rescue.
The American Red Cross states the response cost will be at least 30 million dollars. At the peak of the flooding disaster, there were more than 10,000 people in fifty shelters. The Red Cross has provided over 160,000 meals.
The floodwaters have since receded, but the Red Cross said help will be needed for a long time to come. Kimbrough agreed, saying there would be several specific needs that will need to be met in the weeks and months ahead.
“Monetary donations through reputable disaster relief organizations (will be needed), along with volunteer labor and support,” he said.
Burt and Tammy Ballard live in Prairieville, La. Their home is not in a flood zone. They watched the rain falling steadily down. The water edged towards their home. They waited but there wasn’t any news of the water increasing enough to actually flood their home. Just in case it did, they moved what they could to higher places.
They went to bed but awoke at 2 a.m. Sunday morning. There was water rising into their home. They had to get out quickly as it rose rapidly. They ended up with five feet of water in their home. Burt and Tammy spent their 34th wedding anniversary getting to safety.
“I swallowed my pride and asked for help after we did as much as we could by boat,” Burt Ballard said. “Our daughter and her family had to evacuate their home also on Sunday morning. We’ve lost our vehicles, almost everything but we are so thankful that we are all safe.”
More local help
Another Baldwyn-area volunteer has family who were displaced due to the flooding. Greta Austin’s cousin sent her a photo from her cell phone of her aunt, Virginia Jordan, walking down the street away from the flooding with one bag of clothes in her hand. Austin is kin to six families in Albany and Denham Springs who are dealing with the devastation.
Four local volunteers went along with Austin to help her family. The group removed all the walls and flooring from her aunt’s home. They gave out water and cleaning supplies to others in need.
“When I saw people’s loved ones washed up at the graveyards, it was terribly sad,” Austin said. “We saw people laying on the sidewalk with nothing but their clothes they had on.”