When a catastrophic storm hit Baton Rouge last month, it sunk southern Louisiana in over five feet of water.
Over 40,000 homes have been destroyed, over 30,000 residents were displaced, and over 20,000 people had to be rescued by the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and Louisiana National Guard. The massive scale of this disaster prompted President Obama to declare a state of emergency for the state of Louisiana. It’s estimated a flood of this magnitude happens only once in every 500 years.
In the wake of devastation, Adventures staff Reid Mason saw something remarkable.
The rain refuses to stop. It just keeps coming.
It has been falling for a week, burdening the efforts of residents of Baton Rouge to get back up. The storm that hit Baton Rouge was not a single event, but has turned into a saga. The rain came in an unprecedented deluge creating flash floods that ambushed tens of thousands of people. And it has rained every day since. Some thought it could come, and some even prepared for what they deemed the “worst case scenario”, but no one predicted this.
24 inches of rain. Creeks, rivers, and bayous at their highest levels in hundreds of years. This kind of storm happens once in every 500 years.
John, Delilah, and their four daughters know the dangers of storms and the risk of flooding. As the rain kept coming, they watched the weather and watched the water levels climb higher. Last Sunday night, John and his family went to bed at midnight with the water coming to rest 20 yards from the house. They had watched it all day creeping closer to their house, but it had finally stopped. They were safe, and it was time for bed.
By 4 am that morning, John had two feet of water rushing through his home. Scrambling around the house, John had to make the bitter calls of what was most important to save. Grandpa’s 40 year old shelves, mother’s piano, the family’s guitars? What about the photo albums, clothes, expensive electronics and food?
Decisions were made, valuables were put up high and furniture was placed on cinder blocks. The waters receded and John got to work cleaning his home. The waters were down, and hopes were up.
This past Wednesday, the unthinkable happened: the waters came back. John’s house was flooded again. All the work of taking everything outside, cleaning it, and putting it back inside was for naught.
Today, a group of 20 volunteers including myself helped them totally gut their home and throw away 75% of their belongings. Furniture, books, shoes, ovens, paintings, TVs and more were tossed in immense piles lining the streets. Garbage trucks patrolled the streets but they were losing the battle. Neighbors roamed the streets in trucks, passing out waters, snacks, and smiles.
The city feels misaligned; traffic is either a ghost town or gridlock, restaurants are waterlogged or with a long waiting time, and residents calmly shrug off the calamity of the floods. There is something uneasy about how natural this is for them. That’s not to say they aren’t hurting, because they truly are. And it’s not to say this is common, because this isn’t.
But they aren’t holding on to that which brings no hope. They aren’t holding on to cliches, platitudes, illusions or escapes. They’re holding on to family, relationships, love, and community. They’re holding on to that which transcends tragedy or disaster.
Baton Rouge was beaten by the wind and rain, and building the town again will take time, but the residents of Baton Rouge are hopeful, fighting, resilient, and generous.
Baton Rouge refuses to give up. Instead they fight for hope, for life.
*1st and second photos by Chuck Morris
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