BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – This week marks five years since the historic 2016 flood that damaged thousands of homes and businesses across south Louisiana. Since the water left, there has been hard work in recovering and trying to make sure nothing like that will happen again.
“The next thing I knew the water came up so fast,” said. U.S. Rep. Garret Graves.
Congressman Graves remembers preparing for the rainstorm and when the water hit, he helped rescue people in Zachary.
“We were probably in that same neighborhood I am going to guess for about 12 hours,” Rep. Graves said. “There until well after midnight doing rescues, we had a kayak, paddleboard, rescuing people nonstop.”
From Lafayette to Livingston Parish, over 17 inches of rain filled rivers and streets. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event but it revealed drainage systems were not keeping up with development.
“Systems that were built decades ago certainly are antiquated against the backdrop of the intensity of water that we are having these days,” East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said.
Mayor Broome, whose own home was flooded in 2016, made storm mitigation a priority when she took office the next year. Fast forward five years later, she and the parish are sending out letters to people impacted by the flood, telling them to renovate their properties to prevent future flooding.
“We have been helping to facilitate those in the recovery process of doing what they need to do to build a more resilient home,” Mayor Broome said.
Her Stormwater Master Plan hopes to widen 66 miles of these local drainage routes among other projects to mitigate ongoing flooding concerns. On Capitol Hill, Congressman Graves said he helped change FEMA’s rules through over 20 different bills. The agency spent over $1.4 billion to help on the public and individual level after the event.
“Projects that have been stuck since before I was born are today under construction moving forward and I think you are going to continue to see gradual improvements in flood protection,” Rep. Graves said.
Both politicians said while they hope to never see a repeat of 2016, the focus now is building south Louisiana to be more resilient.