We're Just Letting Louisiana Drown (Updated)

A year ago, Louisiana was hit with one of the worst flooding events in U.S. history, even worse than Hurricane Katrina. In some places, more than two feet of rain fell over the course of three days. I was there when the rains hit and saw some of the impassable roads and drowned homes, and I wasn't even in Baton Rouge, where the worst of it hit the most poverty-stricken areas. It caused $10.3 billion in damage, and it displaced tens of thousands of people. Yet, as a new report from Climate Central says, because we were in the midst of the Olympics and the stupid, awful presidential election, the disaster received precious little coverage relative to the magnitude of the devastation.

That is most especially clear in the money that has been spent on recovery. For the August flood and for a March 2016 flood in north Louisiana that resulted in $2.3 billion in damage, the federal government has only provided $1.7 billion in aid. It works out to 12-13 cents for every dollar in damage. Obviously, Washington can't make up for all losses, but after Sandy and Katrina, that number was 65-70 cents per dollar. So, in many, many ways, this has been a forgotten disaster.

The August 2016 floods in Louisiana are a direct result of conditions that exist due to climate change, as two groups of scientists said. One study that included scientists from NOAA said that "greenhouse gas pollution made the extraordinary volume of rain that fell Aug. 12 to Aug. 14 twice as likely, compared with a century earlier." Many of the areas that were flooded are outside of places that are marked as "flood zones" by the state and federal governments. That's how extraordinary these storms were.

This past weekend, New Orleans was hit with a storm that dumped up to 9 inches of rain over the course of a few hours. It's another flood you barely heard about over the burps of Trump's Twitter account. All of a sudden, the water pumps, still being upgraded post-Katrina, that were supposed to handle a half-inch of rain an hour were overwhelmed, and a few stopped running due to power outages. The floods remained through Saturday night and into Sunday morning. It was what the National Weather Service called a "50-100 year event." When the upgrades on the pumps and drainage system are complete in 2020, the system is supposed to be able to handle a once-in-a-decade event.

Louisiana is going to drown. Coastal erosion is so bad due to rising seas that Governor John Bel Edwards has asked President Trump to declare it a national emergency to get more funding for the Army Corps of Engineers to try to slow it down. We know how that will go.

The state is going under, as in literally underwater, like Florida, like coastal areas all around the U.S. And we have likely reached the point, due to neglect, ignorance, and greed, where there isn't a damn thing left we can do about it. One of the great ironies here is that even if you could get pumps and drainage to a point where they got rid of the floods in New Orleans quickly, that would dry out the soil and, as one official put it, "it basically collapses," which makes flooding more likely. The earth is done.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is not only doing nothing to stem the effects of climate change, it's not even enforcing the laws that target polluters.

Back after Katrina in 2005, residents of the destroyed Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans heard rumors that Donald Trump was going to buy up the land there for cheap to build a casino or hotel. They were ready to protest and block it. But that never happened. And now, it's probably too bad because maybe then the president would give a damn.

Update: Not only were the pumps broken, but now a turbine that provides power to many of the pumps has burned out.  And officials in charge of the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans lied to the public. Those people have been fired or forced to resign. Until we get this right, it's only a matter of time before the next major flood and the next.