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Fighting the Flood: One Year Later

Kirsten Roed

It began one year ago tonight.

“I don’t ever remember going an entire day where it didn’t at least stop raining for a little while,” state climatologist Barry Keim said, wonderingly. “It rained all night long. It rained every minute of the day. We had 32 straight continuous hours of rainfall.”

Hardest hit was the Livingston Parish town of Watson, home to state Representative Valarie Hodges.

“Watson got 32-inches of rain within 48 hours,” she remembers.

And then the rivers rose.

“I woke up with a foot of water in my house at four in the morning, and within a few hours I had four feet. And everything I owned was under water, and we could see the Amite River rushing through between the houses.”

He voice still shaking with remembered fear, Hodges says, “We were not sure if we were even going to be rescued.”

That’s because one of the main regional switching stations for cell phone provider AT&T went underwater, leaving many without service, unable to call for help. Volunteers brought out their boats, launching the “Cajun Navy” rescue.

“We always knew Louisiana was full of people being good neighbors,” Governor John Bel Edwards said, applauding their efforts.

But once the waters receded, the reality brought a new flood – of tears.

“It was devastating to watch my husband and kids drag everything that we owned and everything that we’ve worked for – we’ve been married 45 years – to the road: my wedding pictures, my baby pictures, heirlooms from my grandmother,” Hodges says.

Those losses brought were shared by neighbors across 30 parishes, many of whom are still struggling to rebuild.

One year later, Hodges is still fighting for her neighbors and others to finally get a long-delayed flood control project built.

“I didn’t want to say I told you so, but I started the task force four years ago to talk about the Comite Diversion Canal.”

Since the flood she’s been pushing even harder to secure the federal funding to go ahead with the project, which  homeowners in Ascension, Livingston and East Baton Rouge have been paying property taxes to help construct  for 17 years now.  

“It’s not a matter of if we have another flood: it’s a matter of when,” Hodges states.