CAGNOLATTI: Thoughts On The Great Flood Of 2016

Editor’s Note: A guest post by David Cagnolatti.

My thoughts on the great Louisiana Flood of 2016. This is mostly for my out-of-state friends who are not getting the full story of this disaster from the network news.

First, this has nothing to do with tidal surge, or the coast for that matter. 30 inches of rain fell in 26 hours over south central Louisiana, an area roughly 50 miles wide by 75 miles long. Rainfall totals in this entire area measured between 18 and 30 inches. Folks, any place in America would have a disastrous flood with that amount of rain. There is nothing unique about Louisiana that makes it more “at risk” than other areas, contrary to some news reports I have seen.

The topography in South Louisiana is unique. The land is very flat. The entire area I described above has very little variance in elevation. Not more than 20 feet separate the highest land from the lowest. The entire area is coursed by rivers, bayous, gullies, creeks, and even some man-made canals. Any piece of land in the entire area could have flooded, depending on where the rain fell the hardest, what body of water that land drained into, and when that body of water crested. Most rivers were literally flowing backward.

Within a half mile of my home in Prairieville, LA about 80 percent of the homes and businesses had water over the ground level slab of the structure. Through the Grace of God my home stayed high and dry. I was one of the lucky ones. As I drove around today I saw thousands of homes with large piles of debris at the street. I thought “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.”

What has not surprised me at all is the way Louisiana folk responded. Everyone pitched in to help. Meals were prepared and delivered. Shelters were set up and volunteers manned them. Medical personnel were on site to care for the weak and the sick. Everyone who owned a boat was out giving rides to people who needed to escape rising water. The national media made a big deal of this, extolling the “Cajun Navy”. I know these people. They are just normal folk, pitching in to help. It’s a simple as this… People need help; I have a boat; let’s go. That’s it.

When folks went to work on recovery, it mattered not what race, creed, or socioeconomic strata one belonged to. A friend of mine said it best. We had no white, black, hispanic or Asians. We had no rich or poor. We had no Catholic, Protestant, Muslim or Jews. We had two kinds of people, dry folk and wet folk, and the dry folk helped the wet folk.

I spent all day yesterday pitching in at my nephew’s house in Zachary, LA. Devin is a three time world champion power lifter. He was in the middle of training for nationals when the flood hit. His home, and his training gym had between 2 and 4 feet of water in it. He had 15 family members and friends mucking out his house, his gym, and his garage. The most important thing to him was the gym. We got him training again; and life moves on. If he wins title number 4, we’re going to have the biggest party you’ve ever seen!

As the last of the floodwaters begin to recede, the final tally is something like 150,000 homes and businesses flooded, give or take 10,000. To those of you who made donations or sent relief supplies, we thank you. You have made a difference in people’s lives. We appreciate the outpouring of generosity from around the country. We will pay it back whenever you have a disaster. That’s a promise.

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