The Effect of the Great Flood By: Juan Knatt SWBLSA Convention Coordinator
From The Advertiser
This year’s flood couldn’t have come at a worse time. Baton Rouge was excluded from mainstream media coverage for several days as the airwaves veered between the Rio Olympics and our nation’s pitiful excuse of a presidential election. For whatever reason, the major networks decided as a whole that Baton Rouge deserved a footnote in the week’s headlines below Donald Trump and "Lochtegate.” It’s not a secret that our nation’s focus is media-driven, and that explains why Americans remain ignorant of the widespread devastation these floods caused. This was not Katrina. The impacted areas were not in a floodplain or built below sea level, like New Orleans. The floods were the result of trillions of gallons of rainwater over the span of just a few days. There isn’t a municipality in America prepared to suddenly handle that much water. There is no way to prepare for or prevent a natural disaster of this magnitude. The most impacted areas were in Ascension and Livingston Parishes, rural areas outside of Baton Rouge. Also, Lafayette, the third largest city in the state, and its surrounding areas were deluged as well, yet had received little to no coverage. Certainly racial and socioeconomic issues account for some of the reasons Baton Rouge and Lafayette received such a poor response from the media and the federal government. While I readily acknowledge that these communities are almost equally white and black, I would be remiss to ignore that they are overwhelmingly poor, rural, or middle-class. These are not affluent areas. There are no damaged superstructures like the Superdome for CNN and Fox to broadcast on a loop for days. I remember watching Katrina coverage 24/7 as an evacuee in Dallas, and that still didn’t make the federal government move faster to assist poor people. In 2005, FEMA took 5 days to arrive in New Orleans. In 2016, it still took them 3-4 days to reach some affected parts of Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and the surrounding areas. That’s inexcusable, particularly when you compare the response to that of Hurricane Sandy on the New Jersey shore. When tragedy strikes, the quality of the response depends on your income level. I can say that at least for Louisiana. While thousands of dramatic rescues and heroic efforts were recorded in the aftermath of the storms, citizens and local first responders committed the vast majority of these acts. It took days for the federal government to reach Ascension and Livingston and set up shelters for the thousands displaced from their homes. There are hundreds of videos on social media of the “cajun navy” taking it upon themselves to launch their boats in an effort to save their neighbors, their pets, and belongings. These people are everyday citizens who use these boats for fishing, risking their lives because they know the federal government’s history of response. It’s time to hold them accountable.