Louisiana floods

The trail of wreckage from the Louisiana floods.

Only 13 people were killed in Louisiana in the floods last month. Not so bad? Wikipedia has the map of the parishes declared federal disaster areas by FEMA:


Because it was so spread out, the disaster did not have the media resonance of hurricane Katrina and tropical storm Sandy. So the photo reporting by Julie Dermansky at DeSmog Blog comes as a shock. All photos her copyright.

To start with her Faulknerian vision of beauty in decay and desolation:

floods_carCar in front of flooded home off Ridge Road in Ascension Parish, Louisiana, on September 2.

More typical are these:

floods_roadResidents are still emptying their homes of items damaged from the August floods, as seen along this street in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on September 15.

floods_signIn town after town, the streets are lined with piles of people’s belongings left outside their recently flooded homes in southern Louisiana.

Maybe the sign should read not “GOD BLESS THE USA” but “GOD FORGIVE THE USA”? So far, He’s as implacably Calvinist as Yahweh with Pharaoh. Actions have consequences. Repent of your evil ways, or suffer, innocent and guilty alike. This will go on until you do.

There’s black humour in this:

floods_hobbyDebris piled in front of a gutted Hobby Lobby store on O’Neal Lane in Baton Rouge on September 9.

As a metaphor for the trail of wreckage that Scalia and the Roberts Supreme Court have made in the American legal and political system, this takes some beating.


Web page with a list of local charities accepting donations for disaster relief: medical, children, animals. schools, home rebuilding, etc.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

8 thoughts on “Louisiana floods”

  1. I wonder if this isn't just a symptom of the big-city bias of the media in general. There were lots of rural and small-city communities that were hit very hard by Katrina and Sandy that never really got much attention from the news either, as much attention as those storms got in general. Speaking as an academic who researches disasters, (among other things), I suppose that's the sort of thing I could study. Perhaps I'll add it to the list of studies I hope to get around to doing one day.

  2. If too much attention were paid, it might prompt a review of the monetary incentives to locate in a flood plain. But that would only benefit the average consumer and taxpayer and the overall economy. Who cares about those things?

    1. Apparently, a large portion of this flooding was outside the flood plains. Note, they got 20 inches of rain–about half of the yearly average–in 2 days.

      I lived in Amherst Virginia at one time, and had friends who remembered the 1969 Hurricane Camille floods, which were similar–an odd conjunction of weather systems just stopping a major storm in place.

  3. Hurricane Katrina caused two orders of magnitude more deaths than the recent floods did, as well as being catastrophically mismanaged. I don't think the reasons it got a lot more news coverage are all that complicated.

    1. No? What about Sandy? No catastrophic mismanagement there. A few dozen deaths, which is a bit more, but proportionally to the population affected, much lower rates. Or if we go back to Hurricane Andrew… same story. The media simply seems much less interested in these things when they don't happen in big, charismatic cities.

      1. By "a bit more" you mean that about 20 times as many people were killed by Sandy than by the recent flooding, if we count Caribbean countries as well as the U.S.; if you don't want to include them, then Sandy killed about 12 times as many people. Roughly 100 times as many people lost power due to Sandy than the recent floods. Again, the reason that Sandy got more coverage really isn't very complicated.

        1. 72 direct deaths is the official National Hurricane Center number for the United States. The much larger number includes indirect deaths, which is a valid choice but not the one I was making. Proportionally that is far, far less deaths relative to affected population. The number of power losses is directly related to the density of population and settlement in the affected area. So if that's the criterion, then cities matter more by definition. We're talking in circles at this point.

          1. It isn't so much talking in circles as pointing out what ought to be so obvious that the subject doesn't even come up: an event that affects 100 million people is a lot more newsworthy than a similar event that affects 1 million. If you have that difference, wondering why the first gets more coverage than the second is kind of pointless. Cities matter more not by definition, but because that's where most people are.

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