16 august 2016

As Louisiana Floodwaters Recede, the Scope of Disaster Comes Into View

By CAMPBELL ROBERTSON and ALAN BLINDERAUG, New York Times August 16, 2016

As Louisiana on Tuesday faced its second catastrophic flood in about five months, climate scientists elsewhere cautioned that the state was unlikely to be the last to confront a disaster like this one.

“Grab what you can and get out,...This is going under.” [The President of Livingston Parish, Louisiana]

DENHAM SPRINGS, La. — Kathryn Morgan, 18, stood on the shore of the neighborhood, waiting for a boat and taking stock.

Home, truck, school, workplace, her friends’ homes: all gone, flooded out. There was less certainty about the fate of her dog, left days ago with some food in a portable kennel. Or the bassinet and piles of baby clothes left behind when she and her 5-week-old daughter, Charlie, were picked up in a boat and taken to the safe and dry second story of her godmother’s home.

“It’s Louisiana, we always expect the ditches to fill when it rains,” said Ms. Morgan, who was returning from the first supply run in three days. This was not just the ditches. “It’s like a hurricane,” she said. “But without any warning.”

As the receding floodwaters continued to expose the magnitude of the disaster the state has been enduring, Louisiana officials said Tuesday that at least 11 people had died, and that about 30,000 people had been rescued. Gov. John Bel Edwards acknowledged that the state did not know how many people were missing, but he said that nearly 8,100 people had slept in shelters on Monday night and that some 40,000 homes had been “impacted to varying degrees.”

“We are still very much in an emergency, search-and-rescue response mode for much of the Florida parishes,” Mr. Edwards said, referring to an eight-parish area east of the Mississippi River. “Saving life is the most important priority that we have. We’re going to dedicate every available response to that effort until it’s no longer required.”

In Louisiana, severe weather can often seem a trauma visited and revisited. But the disaster unfolding here this week fits into a recent and staggering pattern in more than half-dozen states, where floods have rolled out at such a scale that scientists say they might be a once-every-500-or-1,000-year occurrence. The cumulative, increasingly grim toll, from Maryland to South Carolina to Louisiana to Texas, includes scores of lives and billions of dollars in economic losses.

Everywhere the same refrain — that it has never happened like this — has given rise to the same question: How should communities and families plan for deluges that are theoretically uncommon but now seem to play out with appalling regularity?

“We’ve clearly had a rash of these things in the last year; in the last 12 months, it’s just been incredible,” said Barry D. Keim, Louisiana’s state climatologist. “We’re learning a lot, but, unfortunately, it’s flooding a lot of people and causing a lot of problems.”




Flooding in the South Looks a Lot Like Climate Change AUG. 16, 2016
Thousands Displaced in Storm-Drenched Louisiana AUG. 14, 2016
Louisiana Floods Lead to 8 Deaths AUG. 15, 2016

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