Saturday, August 27, 2016



Home owners in south Louisiana, in particular the Baton Rouge and Denham Springs area, have experienced flooding before. This time was different. 

Areas that were historically considered safe from flood waters went under. Several feet under. 


Some would cry "climate change". Some say - well, that just happens in a flood plain and they shouldn't live down there.

WHAT IF there's a different reason?

Not everyone realizes that when you tamper with natural drainage paths, you can create serious problems. Civil engineers know this, however - or they should. Water that historically drained off to uninhabited areas is now trapped by a new highway barrier on Interstate 12. It runs for 15 miles between Baton Rouge and Denham Springs. It was installed by the Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development (DOTD), to safely separate the lanes of traffic. But did it have to be a SOLID wall with no drainage points?

A search on LADOTD projects led me to a few documents. Apparently this project had to be built to a highway standard determined by the federal government (FHWA) which the State of Louisiana had to adhere to. No wonder a wave of water rushed through the lower end of the parish and the upper end was heavily impacted. 

This document explains the minimum National Environmental Policy Act requirements for FHWA Projects, including Environmental Assessments, and Environmental Impact Statements.

With those requirements, why was this barrier created without thought for wildlife and for drainage? I found some documents that explain this was a "Design/Build Construction" project. This document includes an explanation of what that means. 

They've also built identical segments at 3 locations between Satsuma and Slidell, with the intention of having a -  c o n t i n u o u s  - wall from Mississippi to Baton Rouge.


The solid highway barrier is 4-6 feet tall and runs non-stop for fifteen (15) miles! 

Resident Kelley Williamson posted a video on Facebook showing how the water was trapped by the barrier. This amateur video shows how the barrier - or perhaps it should be called a dam - held all that water in:

Watch Kelley's video to see the water-trapping barrier in action


In addition to water, wildlife can't get past this barrier either. Locals say animals are getting killed trying to cross this section of highway. The barrier has forever altered their paths.

RICK RAMSAY shared an image on Facebook:
"This nice 5 lb Gulf Coast Smooth Softshell Turtle is indigenous only to sandy bottom, fast flowing water.....The Amite River.
We found this beauty in my pool when I drained it yesterday, the concrete barrier swept it 6 miles down the interstate from where the river channel is located."


Listen to this WAFB interview with the Mayor of Walker, Louisiana, who warned that this might happen. 


Now home owners with no flood insurance (because they weren't in an identified flood zone) are faced with repairing homes with only a little financial help. What FEMA pays only covers making a home "habitable", NOT restoring it to original condition. 

  • Second mortgages and fundraisers are the only options for many.
  • Additionally, those with 50% or greater damage are being told they have to RAISE their homes on stilts if they want to stay. Imagine paying that prohibitive cost if you're already paying a mortgage!

It appears to me that the highway barrier CHANGED the natural, historical pathways of area waters, and the DOTD needs to do something about this problem.

BEFORE there's another monsoon. Maybe this should be called a "dam" instead of a "barrier". 

And the state plans for it to extend from Mississippi to Baton Rouge? Insane.


Survival With the Kindness of Strangers

Some farmers lost livestock and crops. There's so much loss it's hard to know about all of it. Once the waters went down, home owners opened their front doors to find a thick, stinking coating of mud on floors, wet walls, ruined appliances and soggy furniture. 

Everyone went to work tearing it all out and working to prevent mold from setting in. It will be a long time before their homes are habitable again, and people are STILL displaced. 

Here's a Facebook video that captures the sequence - from the deep waters seen from outside inaccessible homes, to the unpleasant task of ripping out flooring and walls in an effort to avoid further damage and mold growth. At about 6 minutes into the video, you can see people involved in the clean up phase. 

Inside homes, large appliances and furniture were moved and overturned by the water, as though giants had tossed them. Personal belongings are often too soggy and water-logged to save. In the rush to get their belongings outside to prevent mold, cherished belongings and memories are lost.

All of the flooded homes have "piles" out front - inspectors need to see what was lost in order to make judgements about monetary assistances. It has to be hard to see strangers come by and help themselves to your soggy, damaged belongings. One poster on Facebook, with a keen sense of humor and highly readable writing style, had this to say 


So many have helped. They've helped each other, they've had help from official agencies, and from first responders arriving from out of the area and out of state. Many are still at it, to this day. There's still so much to be done. Tragedy can bring out the best in us (well, most of us).

Taylor Swift has donated one million dollars, plus another 100K.

Randy Jackson and Harry Connick Jr. planned a Labor Day weekend fund raiser. 

Brittany Spears is raffling off her MTV VMA outfit. 

There are certainly more I don't know about. But it's far, far from enough. Louisiana is still hurting. And I hope that charities make sure the money goes to victims and not administrative funding.

Many home owners like this one have set up GoFundMe accounts to help meet these expenses. These are good people who've never asked for anything, who are having to swallow their pride and accept help and support.

You're going to see a lot of these over the next several months. Contribute what you can, if you can!