A Tale of Two Disasters
Scott McKay
by

It started on Thursday evening of last week and didn’t end until Sunday morning, about 60 hours’ worth of non-stop rain in Biblical proportions covering about half a state. In some places, as much as 31 inches of rain fell — in nearly all, the total was two feet.

And from west of Lafayette to the Mississippi state line, Louisiana soon found itself under water. To the tune of more than four trillion gallons of rain — enough to fill six million Olympic-sized swimming pools. In two and a half days.

As of this writing, some 20 of the state’s 64 parishes are now under a disaster declaration, with another handful likely to follow as the state’s rivers swell beyond their banks and spill into streets and homes. More — well more — than 40,000 homes have been destroyed, and well north of 40,000 people have evacuated. The sheriff in Livingston Parish, just east of Baton Rouge, estimates that 105,000 people in a parish with a population of about 135,000 have “lost everything.” The eastern half of East Baton Rouge Parish, which lies on the opposite bank of the Amite River from Livingston, suffered similar damage.

The death toll from the event stands at 11. As the waters recede and recovery personnel take stock of what happened, that number is sure to rise — perhaps precipitously so. Included in the lost is Bill Borne, the founder and former CEO of the national home nursing firm Amedisys, who was attempting to help rescue neighbors in an ATV and drowned amid the floodwaters. He was 62.

Until you’ve seen what five feet of water in your house can do to your life, you can’t quite understand the concept of loss. Unless you have a second story, five feet of water means your possessions are now garbage. And this is the fate of hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana today, in an event which is only continuing to get worse.

The instinct for those who aren’t familiar with the geography of South Louisiana, or more specifically the hydrology of the south-central part of the state, is to expect that rainwater falling around Baton Rouge would drain into the Mississippi River along which the city sits. But for a few minor exceptions, that is not the case. On the eastern side of the river, in fact, and particularly with respect to Baton Rouge and its major suburbs in Livingston and Ascension Parishes, it’s the Amite, and not the Mississippi, which serves as a drainage basin.

And the Amite simply could not, and cannot, handle the strain of two feet of water, or more, in 2 ½ days across its entire drainage area. Its water levels rose as high as 12 feet above flood stage, and the tributary creeks and bayous in those parishes, themselves swollen with rainwater, had nowhere to drain. Thus ensued a rolling flood disaster from the Mississippi state line all the way to Lake Maurepas and Lake Ponchartrain.

But unless you’ve looked for this information, it’s probably new to you.

On the other hand, you’ve probably heard plenty about another story which happened at the same time. In Milwaukee, a young career criminal fleeing from the police made the mistake of pointing a (stolen) gun at a cop and was predictably shot dead. There wasn’t even an attempt to sell Sylville K. Smith as a gentle giant or harmless good citizen; all that mattered was that a “racist white cop,” who turned out to be black, shot an “unarmed black man,” who turned out to be armed, and there were inevitable race riots for a night or two.

Guess which story the media found more compelling!

At the end of the day it’s not a surprise. The current state of the American media, including the entertainment networks which pose as TV news organizations, requires every story to fall into one of relatively few buckets. To sell to the suits, a story has to be about global warming, an example of criminal malfeasance by government or private industry, or involve black vs. white, rich vs. poor, gay vs. straight, old vs. young or some other narrative being sold by the social justice cottage industry.

Milwaukee has enough of those elements. Baton Rouge doesn’t.

In the Louisiana flooding there is no black and white or rich and poor. There is only dry and wet. Among the 105,000 people in Livingston Parish who lost everything, there are poor black folks in trailers, and there are rich whites in the tony golf community of Greystone, with its million-dollar houses along a David Toms-designed course. All suffer equally. And there are stories of black people in boats rescuing white people in flooded houses, and vice versa. All of a sudden nobody cares about race in Louisiana. Nobody cares about lesbians, or the transgendered, or the politically incorrect. No one cares about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Nobody cares whether Adele can dance, or whether there is an Olympic fencer who wears a hijab and trashes the country before losing a match.

And while it’s noted that neither Anderson Cooper, Shepard Smith, Lester Holt nor any of the other princelings of TV news have made their way to view Louisiana’s agony, no one really cares whether they come. The poisonous and divisive media coverage of Katrina a decade ago, and the worsening commoditization of news into a vehicle for demoralizing and delegitimizing Americans in flyover territory since then, has made the elites of New York and Washington toxic to the people in these parts.

That’s a change from Katrina. Back then Louisiana begged and pleaded to have its story told, and the nation’s help given. But after suffering through the insults of pederast House Speaker Denny Hastert questioning whether to rebuild New Orleans, and the thorough incompetence and waste of FEMA, and the shameless use of Katrina for political purposes, the general sentiment is that this state will largely take care of itself. The boatmen of the unofficial volunteer Cajun Navy, who use Facebook as a means to target victims needing rescue, have replaced the government as Louisiana’s first responders — and the all-private, all-volunteer Celtic Media refuge, where giant movie sound stages have been converted to a refugee shelter with no help from government, has replaced the government-organized hell of the Superdome.

Thanks to the rain, hundreds of thousands of people have nothing. But they have each other. They have their community. And that, for now, is enough. Shepard Smith can go hang.

Scott McKay
Scott McKay
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Scott McKay is publisher of the Hayride, which offers news and commentary on Louisiana and national politics.
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