Louisiana finds itself in recovery mode again, this time across South Louisiana. The two-day, seven trillion gallon deluge that fell between Friday, August 12 and Sunday, August 14, drove flood waters into places that had not experienced them before.
The storm was unusual in that it was not a tropical storm or a named hurricane. It was a low-pressure area that fed off of high surface water temperatures in the northern Gulf of Mexico and the higher humidity contained in hot summer air to create a flood disaster that affected more than 500,000 people, in about 230,000 homes and apartments, across 30 parishes.
Flozell Daniels, Jr., and Camille Manning-Broome have seen this kind of carnage before in Louisiana. Daniels is the CEO and President of the Foundation for Louisiana, which was created in the wake of our twin disasters of 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He lost his home in the flooding of New Orleans after the federal levee failures there.
Manning-Broome is a senior Vice President with the Center for Planning Excellence in Baton Rouge. She was just finishing work on her masters degree when Katrina and Rita struck and played a key role in the Louisiana Speaks project that followed in which more than 50,000 Louisiana residents had their say about what the state should do to prevent losses on that scale again.
Since then, both Daniels and Manning-Broome have been involved in planning, response, mitigation and community resilience building efforts across the state. In the podcast, Manning-Broome says that part of the problem we confront is that we are reactive rather than proactive in dealing with disasters. Daniels agrees, quoting his board member Ret. Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré who describes the real challenge as “getting ahead of the storm.”
Learning from disasters, developing policies and practices going forward that can reduce the likelihood that disasters will be so devastating to already stricken communities is part of the challenge Daniels and Manning-Broome say we face. In the 11 years since Katrina/Rita, they say leaders at the local, state and federal levels have all come to appreciate the need for better planning to help communities deal with disasters.
On the issue of resilience, the challenge is not to get communities to get back to where they were, Manning-Broome said, it’s about getting them to a better place so that the same problems don’t recur.
Ultimately, they believe that the state and local communities need to be prepared to face more challenges like the current disaster, as climate change will bring more rain and more intense storms to Louisiana. Coupled with sea level rise, there are likely to be more disasters in our future rather than less. To pretend otherwise would be the first step to ensuring more devastation in our future.