The US state of Louisiana was under a state of emergency over the weekend with at least six people dead and 20,000 people rescued due to an “historic” flooding event affecting the state for the previous few days.
Although Louisiana bore the brunt, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas all saw heavy rainfall too.
One of the worst-affected areas is the Louisiana capital, Baton Rouge, with flash flooding affecting it over the weekend.
Some 10,000 people there spent last night in emergency shelters, with 100 roads closed due to flood waters which in some areas have exceeded one in 500-year flood levels. Indeed, at one stage last Friday morning, the Tickfaw River north of New Orleans rose 18 feet in about 12 hours.
“It’s not over,” the Governor John Bel Edwards said yesterday. “The water’s going to rise in many areas. It’s no time to let the guard down.” Edwards added that he did not know how many homes had been damaged, but “it’s in the thousands.” Edwards and his family were also forced to flee the Governor’s mansion after chest-high water flooded the basement. “That’s never happened before,” he said.
An official William Daniel told the BBC: “It is definitely an unprecedented flood here in Baton Rouge. Houses that have never ever even come close to flooding have water three and four foot high in to the houses.”
“This is a flood of epic proportions,” JR Shelton, the mayor of Central City added. “When we talk about floods now, we’ll talk about the great flood of 2016. “Everything else pales in comparison.”
Last night the Federal Government declared a major disaster for Louisiana. More than 1,700 rescue personnel had been mobilized with hundreds of thousands of sand bags deployed in different neighbourhoods. Some 800 guardsmen have also been deployed, as has the Coast Guard, using helicopters to help residents stranded on their rooftops.
Meteorologist Eric Holthaus notes that the flooding is “the latest in a string of exceptionally rare rainstorms that are stretching the definition of “extreme” weather. It’s exactly the sort of rainstorm that’s occurring more frequently as the planet warms.”
He points out that the rain storm in Louisiana is at least the eighth 500-year rainfall event across America in little more than a year.
There is no doubt about it – we are seeing more frequent extreme weather and flooding. Other observers are labelling the record floods a “classic signal of climate change” too.
Meanwhile on 20 August, at a march in New Orleans, activists and communities from across the South will come together to demand a “just transition” away from oil and gas “for the sake of the life and livelihoods of our communities, our cultures and our ecosystems”.
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