I left the beautiful St. Joseph/Benton Harbor area about noon yesterday. I knew it was pouring buckets at home. My friend Laura told me that it was bad and asked if she could pick up Ashok for me. I had such a good week with my new job and the new house that I figured a long day flying would not knock me off my perch. So what if it takes me awhile to get back? The worst case scenario would be that I would sleep in the Atlanta airport 30 feet from a Starbucks.
As I watched the flooding play out on Facebook, (isn’t it weird that we can watch tragedies as they unfold) I saw the usual people having problems with water. Everybody else stayed put knowing that for 25 or 30 years they stayed dry in a flood event. But the rains continued to fall … and fall … and fall without ceasing. One by one my friends from childhood started posting that they had to move family members out of houses that had never flooded before. They lost everything and were heartbroken. The news reports started comparing it to the great flood of 1983. This would be worse, they said. And the rains continued to fall.
My flight got canceled after a 3-hour delay. There were a few people that were loudly complaining about the incompetence of the airlines, and I wanted to ask them if they had been watching what was happening in our city. Their anger was misplaced. The wrath of Mother Nature was pounding the community where I grew up, and the town where I now live. If anything, we were protected. We were dry and safe and surrounded by convenience and air conditioning.
The drama unfolding before my eyes continued to deteriorate overnight. Pleas were posted online for rescues for themselves or loved ones. The water, it seemed, is relentless and taking everything in its wake. Even those that were protected in the past were succumbing to the flood of 2016. My sister said our friend Mandy evacuated at 3 AM and waded in chest-deep water to her mother’s house which was now under water. The Bend Road – the road next to the fickle Amite River – was quickly a very unsafe place to be. Headlines screamed that people in “the Bend” needed to evacuate immediately.
Notice this is for MONDAY!!
“Rising fast”, “Prayers, please”, “need rescue” and “this is scary” peppered my news feed amidst the normal goings-on around the country. I feel like some kind of alternate reality is happening over there in that little town while I’m sitting comfortably at a friend’s house in Alpharetta. My biggest problem is that my luggage is in Baton Rouge, and my hair products are in it. I bought new clothes and a few items to tide me over in case I’m here a few days. Delta says we are taking off at 7:45 PM tonight, but I don’t know. Even so, if the roads are cut off, I may spend a night at the Baton Rouge airport… hardly a tragedy. I feel extremely lucky in comparison.
The flash flood warning is on until Sunday, and that just accounts for the rain. The rivers than run through that area are death traps when they flood. They will be cresting higher than ever. I saw enough of their destructive wake when I was growing up there. Now the area has become much more populated with many homes built on top of wetlands. The natural flood plain is now populated with neighborhoods. In other words, it’s not over. And the fat lady has not even begun to sing.
My niece is waiting for a helicopter airlift with her kids on Highway 16 in Watson. Livingston Parish is cut off from Baton Rouge by surging water. The interstate is closed in several places throughout the Baton Rouge area. I don’t know how I’ll get home even if I land in Baton Rouge. My Aunt is awaiting rescue in the Bend after refusing a rescue attempt this morning. My friend Jean Ann tried to move her car to higher ground, and it’s now stalled on the highway. The new high school is flooded as is my childhood home. Almost everybody I know out there is evacuated or on the verge of it. And the rain continues to fall. There is water, water everywhere.
Please pray for South Louisiana, y’all. This is truly scary.