In an event that appears to be straight out of a climate change powerpoint, southern Louisiana has been hit with unprecedented flooding over the past several days, leading the federal government to declare a state of “major disaster” for several parishes.
ABC News reports that since flooding began last week—over 30 inches of rain fell, and waters continue to rise—20,000 people have been rescued from their homes and at least 6 have died; 40,000 businesses and homes are without power, and 12,000 people are currently living in shelters (some of which then also had to be evacuated due to rising waters). This is at least the eighth 500-year storm that the U.S. has seen in the past year; the statistical chance of this level of flooding occurring in a given year is 1 percent.
From Pacific Standard:
As the atmosphere warms thanks to greenhouse gas emissions, it can hold more water vapor — and this effect makes it exponentially more likely that extreme rainfall events will occur. The weather balloon released on Friday morning from the New Orleans office of the NWS measured near all-time record levels of atmospheric moisture, higher than some measurements taken during past hurricanes. The NWS meteorologist who reported this morning’s reading remarked simply, “obviously we are in record territory.”
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Louisiana on Friday, and the Obama administration is expected to expand the federal declaration to include more parishes as assessments are conducted.
“I have traveled to affected areas and have seen the destruction caused by this unprecedented flooding,” Gov. Edwards said in a statement on Sunday. “We are thankful for the federal government’s quick response to our request for an emergency declaration. This is an ongoing event, and we are confident that every available state and federal resource will be brought to bear. I fully expect that more parishes will be added to the declaration on a rolling basis.”
Gov. Edwards, unlike his predecessor Bobby Jindal, is no climate change skeptic, which is good news for the highly vulnerable state—although eventually, no plan will be able to save some parts of the state from permanent inundation. The federal government has already allocated funds to resettle the entire population (only about 60 people) of Isle de Jean Charles, a project that has proven extremely complex despite its small scale.
Baton Rouge’s The Advocate is publishing regular updates on the flooding here.