Watching news reports of disasters is hard, but it can be even more difficult when you know people involved in the tragedy. That’s the case with the flooding in south Louisiana the weekend of Aug. 12-15.
I’ve known Don Molino, broadcaster with the Louisiana Radio Network, for 30 years. I haven’t known Carey Martin, director of information and public relations for the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation, quite as long, but both have been good friends.
Theirs are among an estimated 40,000 homes severely damaged by flooding in the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas since heavy amounts of rain – more than 24 inches, in some cases – began deluging the Gulf Coast on Aug. 11. Rain is still falling across the region as I’m writing this on Aug. 19.
This is the second time flooding has occurred this year in a state that has had more than its share of weather disasters. The recurring events are leading some to question the conventional wisdom surrounding flooding parameters in the region.
Weather experts say the jet stream, moving along the U.S.-Canadian border, created a large dome of high pressure over the East Coast. Without the dome an area of low pressure that developed over Florida might have moved north. Instead, it drifted along the Gulf Coast and stopped over Baton Rouge and sat there for four days, producing heavy rains.
I’ve seen storms occur around Baton Rouge that you thought would wash it into the Gulf. But after 30 minutes or so, they stopped. This time the rains lasted four days or longer, causing area rivers like the Amite to reach a highest-ever 46.2 feet near Denham Springs.
The rise in weather disasters – flooding has occurred in West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and now Louisiana this year – is prompting many experts to question why, and the answer they’re giving: climate change.
They note that what once were considered 500-year or even 1,000-year events are now occurring with greater frequency, leaving catastrophes like Louisiana’s where officials can’t gauge the flood damage because it probably isn’t over.
Whether you believe in climate change or not, you have to admit weather patterns are changing and hammering friends and strangers.
For more information on the flooding and steps toward recovery, visit http://www.ldaf.state.la.us/