Thursday, August 18, 2016

Help and Prayers Please

I'm heartbroken trying to find the words to type, and asking for help from all who read this.  As many of you are UNaware, due to lack of news coverage, political priority, or no loved ones affected by it, this past weekend over 105,000 people in South Louisiana lost everything to widespread flooding.  Among those 105,000+ people are my family and friends.  My entire hometown, the entire parish of Livingston and surrounding parishes were drowned in muddy river water as high as rooftops in some areas.  Over 30 parishes are considered disaster areas.

I currently live in Florida, which counties here are the same thing as parishes in Louisiana. To look at a basic county map of FL and color in 30 of them...that's  the entire peninsula of the state below Citrus/Volusia County.  In Louisiana (it's shaped like a boot for you non-geography types) that's the entire foot area, ankle deep, of the state.  There's basically nothing left but a leg warmer on the map for that region. Can you grasp the widespread area that's affected?  

The pictures and videos shared on social media were the only updates many people were getting because there's no national coverage showing the mass devastation.  The storm was no warning for the amount of rain that dumped over the state since last week.  Some areas as much as 31 inches in twenty-four hours.  When I started getting calls about it I immediately turned to The Weather Channel to see what the updates were.  There was no breaking news for it, no interruption of regularly scheduled storm chaser documentaries.  I changed the channel to a dozen news stations...nothing but politics and Olympics.  The "-ics" were more important than the worst natural disaster the country has seen since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  There was no tropical storm, no hurricane, no levees breaking.  It was rain, so much rain that overflowed the rivers and canals surrounding that area.  

I was off on Monday, and spent the majority of it on the phone and online trying to reach loved ones.  AT&T cell service was completely down, leaving hundreds of thousands with no means of communication.  No phones, no tv, and soon after that no electricity.  By Tuesday, emotionally drained, frustrated, and feeling helpless, I went to work.  Mind you, the majority of my coworkers know I'm from Louisiana.  I seriously thought I worked with a bunch of a-holes that day because everyone carried on like all was right in the world.  When I showed coworkers the devastation they were astonished it wasn't being shown on the news, none of them knew.       

The critics asked why no one evacuated.  People did evacuate.  By the time they realized how fast the waters were rising and the rain wasn't stopping, it was already too late.  A flash flood hit some areas while others thought they were safe, then the currents changed and flooded them too.  

One friend said they fell asleep Friday night not thinking anything of it since the roads weren't even covered in their subdivision.  This area wasn't even near a flood zone.  The next morning they woke to nearly a foot of water surrounding their bed.  

The following night another friend called in tears saying she had evacuated her home with her two kids the day before only to be trapped on the roof of another home.  They waited for hours in pouring rain for rescue boats as they watched the flood waters reach the overhang.  Her husband is deployed overseas and she had no way to reach him.  

My best friend lost all of her belongings aside from the clothes on her back.  She barely made it to her parents in time with fire rescue to save them from rising waters. They lost one of four family pets to the flood.  Her parents home went under, as well as her grandmother's, and her brother's home.  

My niece, God bless her, sent her friends and their small children on the first round of rescue evacuations.  She stayed, alone, with her three dogs.  Her fiance was stuck in New Orleans with no way to get to her.  The waters kept rising to the point she was forced to seek higher ground.  She waded across to a neighbor who provided as much dry shelter as they could.  Rescue boats returned two days later and she made it safely to my sister's house Sunday night.  

More updates from friends trying to find family members, or reporting found children who were separated from their parents during the fast rising flood waters.  One young boy was alone on the roof of a car where he sat in the rain through the night until boaters rescued him.  He looked no older than twelve.  Another update showed caskets floating down the road.

The death toll has risen to thirteen.  One of the victims identified was a friend of the family.  Ms. Linda Bishop was trying to get to safety when the water came out of nowhere and swept her off the road.  Trapped, she drowned in her vehicle.  Another lady and her adult daughter escaped from their car only to be swept into the trees where the mother was rescued 16 hours later.  Her daughter disappeared.  When the waters receded her daughter's body was found less than ten feet from where she was rescued.  She lost two children that day.  They were on their way to identify her son who had died earlier Friday from a heart attack.   

Strangers flocked to the areas with boats and rafts to help other strangers through murky water, pouring rain, and darkness.   Hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, animal shelters, churches, food banks, the Salvation Army and Goodwills, grocery stores, gas stations, food distributions centers for the grocery stores and gas stations, schools, shelters, first responder buildings and emergency operations centers...EVERYTHING flooded.  

The most surreal statement came from Deputy Nick Tullier's father who keeps loved ones updated on his status.  Deputy Tullier was one of the officers ambushed by the coward in Baton Rouge who murdered three police officers, more were injured, and Deputy Tullier was shot multiple times.  He's still unconscious fighting for his life after nearly 30 days of intensive care. That care is being provided by hospital staff who haven't been able to leave because their relief is waiting to be rescued.  They've had little to no contact with loved ones, unknown if their homes are still standing or if they've also lost everything, yet they continue to care for patients and meet the needs of the community with medical care.  

My fellow law enforcement family and first responders face complete losses of their homes while they work endless hours to rescue others.  The missing persons list is growing.  Even with the major interstates and roadways opening to a slow crawl as flood waters recede, the supplies are dwindling, and needs are rising.      

I broke down after I received a text from my mom today when I asked what the main needs for people were.  She replied with a list then said: "The Baton Rouge Food bank got 4 feet of water, so they have taken a hit but companies from other states have come in and are providing hot meals where they are needed.  Grocery stores are having a hard time getting restocked because the distribution centers also got water.  And supplies from elsewhere couldn't get to a lot of places because of high water and road closures.  Driving to and from work is like a horror movie.  All the debris from the flooded houses is piled high on every road.  This is going to take a long time to recover from because it's so widespread."    

This link is to one of many collections of photographs friends are sharing with updates: Flood of 2016 , and if you feel so inclined to search for more on Google just type in Louisiana Flooding...go ahead, I'll wait. 

One more worth looking at is a live feed facebook video by John Schneider.  If any of you ask who that is I'd normally yell at you to get off my blog.  As a gentle reminder to those less cultured in Dukes of Hazard royalty, he also played Superman's adopted dad in the T.V. series Smallville.  Just watch the video:

If you didn't bother to open any of the links or read the delayed news stories then I hope you at least read this and find it in your hearts (and garages, attics, closets and storage) to donate whatever used/new items you can. This is a list of some of the basic needs requested:
  1. bottled water
  2. non-perishable foods
  3. toothbrushes
  4. toothpaste
  5. wet wipes
  6. deodorant
  7. soaps
  8. shampoos
  9. Feminine products 
  10. baby formula
  11. diapers
  12. pet foods (dry/canned/half used bags even! So many abandoned/lost) 
  13. cleaning supplies (MOLD KILLER)
  14. trash bags
  15. gloves
  16. dust masks
  17. plastic bins
  18. towels
  19. blankets
  20. pillows
Please also consider donating any professional services that will assist in the cleanup, temporary storage units, even temporary housing such as tents.  

I'm asking all of my local friends, coworkers, acquaintances, kindness of strangers, and anyone else they can share this with, to gather what they can for donations of the above items.  If you're nearby or on the way, feel free to contact me and I'll make arrangements to have the items picked up.  You can also donate through one of the local banks to Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office flood relief fund.  

**August 19th update: 

To answer a few questions asked from amazing people who are gathering items, I'm leaving the Central Florida area on September 1st to bring the supplies.  

Contact info is below, but here it is again:  to Sissi M. for information/questions/and drop off locations.  

Items to donate are not limited to the above list; those are just the immediate needs.  YES old towels/wash cloths are welcome, YES old blankets/pillows are welcome, YES these items need to be clean as they will be going directly to first responders for distribution to the shelters and communities in need--there's no place for many of these folks to bathe, let alone wash clothes.  

A roll of paper towels and a half empty bottle of cleaner from under your sink is just as needed and appreciated as any new items.  Please don't feel you have to buy anything to donate.  My boys and I have lawn bags full of old clothes and shoes that we're sending.  An 84 year old console piano I had planned to paint for an art piece is now going to a church that can use it for a much greater purpose.  Beach chairs, a tent, some duplicate tools we have in the garage.  These are simple things we can live without that are huge needs for so many people back home who are without everything.  

Please remember our fellow first responders in these flooded areas have also lost everything, even work gear.  If there's any law enforcement/fire fighter/EMS/support personnel who wish to donate gear I'll make direct contact with the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office to have it distributed.  They continue to work around the clock in less than human conditions.  

P.S. ...anybody know where I can get a fire truck?  One of the fire stations was a complete loss. Figured it can't hurt to ask! 

God bless all of you and thank you for your continued prayers.  

Contact Sissi M.:  for information/questions/and drop off locations.  

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