Saturday, August 20, 2016

This past week: the best of times, the worst of times

In the Dickens classic, A Tale of Two Cities, the author wrote that it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  I believe this best describes the week that was, the story of great tragedy for south Louisiana and the story of courageous, heroic witness to being the hands and feet of Jesus.

It started to rain, and rain hard, in south Louisiana on Thursday, August 11th.  This rain, a direct result of what would have been a named tropical system if it were centered over the Gulf of Mexico rather than land, followed what has already been a slightly above normal wet and rainy summer.  But this rain was ridiculous; off the charts kind of rain.  It rained unceasingly that Thursday through Saturday and the water was on the rise.  Initial flooding was a direct result of the rain itself; one community, in a 36 hour period of time, received more rain, nearly 32 inches, than parts of the state of California gets in an entire year.  Then the flooding became intense as every river, tributary, stream, canal and creek became swollen and angry from St. Tammany Parish clear across our state capitol of Baton Rouge and the Acadiana region in and around Lafayette.  Communities like Denham Springs and Walker reportedly had flooded homes to the astounding level of 75 to 90% of every home in the community.  As we review this devastating weather event we now know that 13 people have died, more than 100,000 homes are flooded, some 30,000 people are still living in shelters, not to mention tens of thousands staying with family or friends, thousands of businesses, churches and schools are out of commission and hundreds of pets are possibly permanently separated from their families.  The estimate of all damages is well into the billions, yes billions.  What seemed like a simple rain event to the rest of the nation will now rival or surpass the impacts of super-storm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina.  Take a moment to digest all of this because it is overwhelming.

 There is a more palpable reality to what all this means if you are one of those who flooded.  Keep this in mind: a vast majority of the people who flooded this time did not have flood insurance.  That's right, these areas were deemed not flood zones by the fed's and in fact, the flooded areas, for the most part, were areas that have never flooded before.  Financially, this will be a huge impact for every family that experienced the flood.  Most of this flood water is dirty river water, it infiltrates the home with not only this disgusting water but mud and sand and gunk.  It makes its way into every part of the home, the sheetrock, the insulation, the furniture, the appliances, everything.  To physically return to your flooded home and gut and clean out the house is incredibly difficult.  It is physically demanding and often must be done without the benefit of AC.  After the flood and initial clean up comes fighting the mold.  And then, if financially sound, the rebuild.  Most of the families you are reading about or hearing about in a brief news snippet will be out of their homes from anywhere to 6 months to a year.  Oh did I mention, if these same families could not move their vehicles ahead of the rising water, they too will be a complete and total loss.

I mentioned that the week that was could also be described as the best of times too.  How can this be?  The answer is simple: the incredible resilient and strong people of south Louisiana.  Immediately, when it was evident that this was a tragedy of epic proportion, thousands of everyday Louisianians jumped in boats and began to rescue family, friends, neighbors and yes, strangers.  They have now been dubbed the Cajun Navy.  Their rescue efforts were nothing short of heroic.  Now that the water is gone for most, the Louisiana spirit of giving is overflowing.  You cannot go anywhere in south Louisiana without encountering relief efforts.  Thousands of businesses and churches have become collection centers for doantions.  Hundreds and hundreds of unaffected citizens are going into the flood zones to help anyone who needs manual labor.  Charities and churches are feeding thousands,  And monetary donations are pouring in.  Remember, without insurance and the new limits imposed by FEMA(maximum benefit of $ 30,000 for a total loss) many will be left financially ruined.  The money raised so far is impressive but a mere drop in the bucket of what is going to be needed to help make folks whole.  It is so nice to see rival businesses working together in this tragedy, churches of many different denomination and faith experiences coming together to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Many houses of worship, in addition to the tangible help on the ground are also offering extra prayer services, masses and professional counseling for those who just need to talk; to cope.

Despite the level of tragic reality we are experiencing in south Louisiana, there is abundant faith, hope and love.  There indeed is a promise of a bright future because so many people care, so many people who have rolled up their sleeves, dug deep in their wallet and have stormed Heaven with prayer.

All the attention will leave us soon, but dealing with the aftermath of the flood is a long time process.  The recovery will be with us for a long, long time.  So if you read this and are from a place far, far away, don't forget we will need help down here for quite some time.  If you are moved to make a monetary donation you can earmark a donation for the Louisiana flood to the well known places like Red Cross or Catholic Charities, especially for the Diocese of Baton Rouge or Lafayette.  My employer, First NBC Bank is also accepting donations so if you would like to do that you can email me at

The best of times, the worst of times; please remember in your prayers and your charity, the good people of south Louisiana. 

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