Sunday, August 14, 2016

Reflections on a flood event

It has been an interesting couple of days. I don't think I have ever been in the middle of a "national natural disaster" before. Yes, there have been the snow storms ... but nothing like this.

One's perspective of the disaster (from inside) is often shaped by where you physically are. Baton Rouge as a city, and East Baton Rouge as a parish, are physically very large...much larger than the communities of the north and northeast with which I am most familiar. The parish is 470 square miles.

Historically, as in much of South Louisiana, the older parts of the city/settlement are on the higher ground. It is true in New Orleans, it is true in Baton Rouge.

We had been getting pretty regular rain for the past couple weeks. Daily showers/thunderstorms with a half-inch of rain or so. Not drenching, most of the time, but sometimes there were some pretty strong, but short, downpours. Thursday night to Friday was different. It was hard, steady rain over an extended period of time. This meant that Friday morning, there was a lot of water around, even in the older parts of the city. There was ponding, and drains that simply could not handle the volume. That happens. But, it kept raining. And raining, and raining.

Just for the record, the weather almanac in the Sunday paper (the only print one I buy) says that we have had 20.76 inches of rain this month (normal is 2.51) and since January 1, we have had 64.95 inches (normal is 38.57).

As the intensity of the storm lessened, the older parts of the city drained. It was not bad near where I live, and in downtown. The further out parts, however were beginning to see the accumulated run off. That is the flooding (as I believe) that we are seeing now.

I drove through some of the more eastern parts of the city today. (For me, that is east of Airline Highway.) There were places that had some water yesterday, that now had a lot of water. The Florida bridge of the water by Sharp Road was not quite flooded over, but a couple miles further the road *was* closed from flooding. I drove through some neighborhoods, trying to get around, and was unsuccessful. What those neighborhoods had in common was age - or lack thereof. Most seemed to be built in the 70s or more recently. They were part of the urban sprawl. Big houses, with big lawns, with spaces between them, and often a median down the street with trees. Yet at the same time, some of the drainage ditches closer in, had barely more water than normal for this time of year.

Those are some random thoughts. I have spent time over the past few days keeping the library's LibGuide on disasters up to date. There have been challenges in finding information on the web sites where you would normally expect to find them (Red Cross shelters, for instance). Some of that will become work to be done after the dust settles (? is that a bad metaphor?).