Louisiana is used to its fair share of rain and flooding. But what began as a rainstorm on Aug. 11 was something out of the ordinary.
In the next 72 hours, two feet of rain fell across a stretch of the state just northwest of New Orleans. In a New Yorker article dated Aug. 27, Douglas McCollam reports that more than 60,000 homes and businesses were flooded and more than 100,000 residents had to be evacuated from the flood zone.
There was not much media coverage after the flooding first began; however, that soon changed as the media turned to President Obama’s response, or perceived lack thereof.
The Advocate, a regional newspaper in Louisiana, was one of many to heavily criticize President Obama for not making a trip to the flood torn region. As reported in an Aug. 17 editorial, President Obama was on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard at the time of the flooding.
The Advocate goes on to compare President Obama’s response to that of President Bush after Hurricane Katrina. And they have every right to.
These were their home, their businesses, their people who were affected. If they want to be angry at the President not visiting the area of the disaster, then they should be. What they should not do, is compare the response to this recent flooding with the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina.
According to the New Yorker article referenced above, not only did President Obama stay in contact with Louisiana’s Governor John Bel Edwards who was okay with not having to divert resources to a presidential visit, but he also spared no time declaring a state of emergency in the area, opening up federal resources to the area.
The response to the Katrina disaster was rife with incompetence, delays and red tape. The response to the flooding in Louisiana saw Craig Fugate, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on site almost immediately with more than a thousand FEMA responders on the ground in the next few days. The difference is striking.
President Obama did eventually visit the flood zone on Tuesday, Aug. 23 to survey flood damage and help advance relief efforts.
What difference in flood relief, in rebuilding efforts, in any measurable aspect could the president’s visit have effected? None. An earlier visit would have changed nothing as the Obama administration had already taken the necessary steps to respond to the flooding on a federal level.
There was a bigger issue hiding behind the floods in Louisiana, and almost no one seemed to mention it. It is a simple fact that this type of weather event is not common, nor should it be common. However, “unnatural” weather patterns are becoming the mainstay as a result of man-made climate change.
On Aug. 23, Bill Nye appeared on CNN’s “New Day” where Nye told host Chris Cuomo, “This [Louisiana flooding] is a result of climate change. It’s only going to get worse.” Nye went on to say “As the ocean gets warmer, which it is getting, it expands,” he explained. “And then as the sea surface is warmer, more water evaporates. And so it’s very reasonable that these storms are connected to these big effects.”