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Texas, Louisiana and a barrage of catastrophic storms

By Rhodesia Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Sep 6, 2017 - 5:40:35 PM

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BATON ROUGE, La.—One year later, residents of Baton Rouge are still recovering from the storm identified as the Louisiana Flood of 2016. This unnamed storm system moved through the capital region last August leaving thousands of homes and businesses submerged in flood waters and 13 people dead. Now, almost to the date, Hurricane Harvey left residents uncertain about their city’s capacity to protect its residents.

Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston-Broome hosted a city-wide prayer service to commemorate the one year anniversary of the 2016 flood at Living Faith Christian Center on August 13. She invited local politicians and religious leaders to give encouraging words during the service themed, “A Time of Reflection.”

“This reflection is to see where God has brought us from a year ago,” said Mayor Broome.

There are still some major improvements that need to be done in Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas before the city is 100 percent clear of damages. The mayor said the city was about 75 percent back to normal and expressed pride in the resiliency of Baton Rouge residents. However, she was critical of the federal government, particularly the Federal Emergency Management Agency, saying FEMA could’ve inspected homes much faster.

“I believe that government always has room for improvement in terms of responding,” Mayor Broome said. One improvement would include speeding up getting financial assistance to families, she added.

Although the recovery process appeared to be a daunting task both physically and mentally, more residents than anticipated decided to stay in the city and rebuild hoping their efforts wouldn’t be in vain with another hurricane looming around the corner.

Texas Governor Gregg Abbott holds a news conference to update Hurricane Harvey response and recover at the Texas Division of Emergency Management offices. Photo: FEMA

Florence James, a resident of Baton Rouge, lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. She decided to evacuate the city after hearing that Hurricane Harvey could affect parts of Louisiana, a chance she didn’t want to take.

“It’s that same time of year. We’re in the season of hurricanes and tornadoes and the first thing you think about when you’ve been through something like this is how scary it is not knowing where your family members are and how they’re doing. All of that comes back,” Mrs. James stated. “I have about 35-40 family members in Texas. First, I told my family to get out. But they didn’t want to leave their things, but I told them that’s just what they are …  things.”

“Houston’s Mayor Sylvester Turner decided not to declare a mandatory evacuation, so my family didn’t think it was necessary to leave,” she said.

Some Louisiana residents were fortunate Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a tropical depression after it dropped heavy bands of rain across Southwest Louisiana in the Lake Charles region, a city about 122 miles from Baton Rouge on August 30.  President Trump visited Texas and Louisiana Sept. 2 and declared parts of both states federal disasters areas, including 12 parishes in Louisiana. Five hundred people had to be evacuated in Louisiana and at least 5,000 parish residents were affected by the flooding.

“I just moved back into my home about a month ago from the water damages I incurred from last year’s flood,” said Baton Rouge resident Brenda Perine. “But when we speak of recovery, I’m speaking of mental recovery. My home is finally intact, but my mind is all over the place. When I saw the images of Hurricane Harvey on TV, people going through exactly what I went through made me uneasy because I know the trials they’re about to face with the lack of resources available. Above all, hearing that Hurricane Harvey could affect us made me realize that there is no escaping mother nature. Meteorologists and weather experts have been using words like ‘catastrophic’ and ‘unprecedented’ and some are even saying ‘apocalyptic’ to describe Hurricane Harvey. However, the terminology is starting to be a bit redundant,” she proclaimed. “The storm that hit us, from my understanding, had a 0.1 percent chance out of 1,000 to occur in a year and it occurred and it keeps occurring.”

According to FEMA, Louisiana has had 14 major disaster declarations since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, including Hurricanes Rita, Gustav, Ike, and Isaac. Tropical storms Lee and now Harvey, tornadoes, severe storms and flooding are another matter. Each of these storms have broken some type of record, the latest being Hurricane Harvey dumping enough rain in Texas and Louisiana to end the state of California’s drought, Paul Deanno, a chief meteorologist said.  More and more, these unusual weather events are becoming standard.

Tamara Green, resident of Baton Rouge said, “We have a long road ahead of us to recovery.  Some of us are still displaced from last year’s flood and more threats are coming our way with Hurricane Irma. … How I look at it is that there’s no place we can run to and not be faced with some type of natural disaster. All we can do is pray and let God be our guiding light because there’s nothing else we can do.”