Flooding in South Central US causes major problems in low-lying communities

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance prepares to support needs

March 16, 2016

Flood waters continue to rise at the Northminster Presbyterian Church, Pearl River, La.

Flood waters continue to rise at the Northminster Presbyterian Church, Pearl River, La. —Peggy Brown

LOUISVILLE

Recent heavy rains have caused big problems for parts of eastern Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi. As much as 20 inches fell during the storms causing creeks and rivers to spill over their banks and into homes, churches and businesses. In Louisiana, Lower Sabine, Bayou Dorcheat, Little River of Louisiana and the Pearl River have experienced record or near record flooding.

“Because of the lowlands, there are entire towns built on stilts and people will leave on their boats so we’re prepared for higher water, but not to the extent that this system has left,” said Tom Tucker, treasurer with the Presbytery of South Louisiana. “We’ve had huge flooding in the past from Hurricanes Katrina and Isaac that caused a great deal of damage. This particular rain system was as vicious but in a smaller area. In fact, some areas that were not flooded with the hurricanes, were flooded this time.”

The water still stands in many communities, keeping presbytery officials from assessing the damage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports thousands of people have been evacuated including inmates from the Richland Detention Center in Richland Parish after the LaFourche Canal levee breached. Thousands are still without power and there are numerous boil water advisories. There have been at least four confirmed fatalities.

“We are surveying to see what damage people have had. Churches will organize teams to go out and help people recover,” said Tucker. “It’s not as huge as it has been, but still something we are gearing up to respond to once the water goes down and we can get in and get a look at it.”

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has been in communication with the Presbytery of South Louisiana since the first report of floods.

“As soon as the executive advises that it is safe to travel in the impacted areas, PDA will deploy a National Response Team to work with the presbytery and assess needs,” said Rick Turner, national associate for disaster response with PDA. “An initial grant request from the presbytery has been approved.” 

One of the hardest hit churches in the flooding was the Northminster Presbyterian Church at Pearl River. Tucker says they’ve been in contact with the pastor who reports at least a foot of water in the building. Staff and volunteers spent most of the time over the weekend moving furniture and other items off of the floor. The private school at the church is currently closed and staff are not sure if the water has reached the sanctuary.

Tucker and other presbytery leaders say they have their work cut out for them.

“We are a resilient people because of where we live. We break out the hip boots and mops and start cleaning up,” Tucker said. “Unfortunately, the population is aging and a lot of people that had the energy to clean up after themselves before are now needing the help.”

For many residents within the presbytery, this is not the first go round with rains and flooding this year.

“We had heavy rains and local flooding a month ago. People were just recovering from that and then this system brings it down again,” said Tucker. “One lady in Covington saw her home flooded during that storm and had to have her drywall ripped out and replaced. Now it has been damaged worse than it was before. So we’ll go in and give her some help.”

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Those interested in contributing to relief efforts can give through PDA DR000191-Louisiana Flooding.

  1. I would be interested in coming to LA to help. John Hart Columbia, SC

    by John Hart

    March 23, 2016