Thoughts and Prayers for Houston

It is ironic that as Louisiana marks the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, another epic disaster is ongoing just across our state line in Houston. At the same time, parts of our own state are again threatened by extensive flooding and the prospects of another extended  period of recovery. The month of August sadly seems to bring its share of dark clouds.
The situation in Houston is hard to comprehend because of the sheer scope of the flooding and the vast concentration of people who live in that region. But what’s happening there is not unfamiliar to Louisiana. Certainly, our state has seen its share of recent disasters, as well.
The levee disaster in New Orleans was unlike anything a major U.S. city has ever seen. Nearly 2,000 people perished, and though the population there is much smaller, the water stayed in some places for weeks and parts of the city were uninhabitable for months. Rita followed a short time later hammering southwest Louisiana. Three years later it was the one-two punch of Gustav and Ike that wreaked havoc, followed by the challenges caused by Gulf oil spill. We understand the occasional wrath of Mother Nature.
Through it all we have learned lessons. One of the all-too-sad ones is that recovery takes a long time. New Orleans is still recovering from Katrina more than a decade later, and a year after the devastating Baton Rouge floods many remain displaced or are still trying to rebuild. Another lesson is that while government support can be significant and beneficial, it misses many, can be slow to arrive, and still requires navigating an often confusing maze of red tape.
Those are lessons one learns, but they don’t really help very much. But there are also lessons taken from experience or discovered through ingenuity that do add value. And that’s one area where Louisiana is poised to help our neighbors in Texas. Every recovery is unique and officials are usually left to deal with new and unforeseen challenges. But there are also commonalities that can be shared to help the recovery efforts. And as the state’s current response to assist our friends next door shows, even in the face of our own challenges, we have an undeniable willingness to share.
Of course, Louisiana has not been untouched by the storm, which also brought jarring memories back to the people of southwest Louisiana. And a lot of Louisiana people were affected in Texas. It is said that a quarter of all LSU alumni live in Houston and it’s no coincidence that LSU’s season opening football game was originally scheduled to be played in the city, though it was chosen as a “neutral” site.
The abundance of purple and gold in the fall and crawfish boils in the spring are ample evidence that Louisiana and Houston truly have close familial ties. In fact, a Texas Monthly story earlier this year chronicled as much under the headline, “The Houston Heights’s Cajun Invasion: Is the Houston Heights Turning into Little Louisiana?” It definitely appears that it is.
But all of those connections notwithstanding, Hurricane Harvey has impacted people in ways that seemed unimaginable just a few days ago. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all. To paraphrase the line on a Blue Dog hurricane relief print by the late artist George Rodrigue, you will rise again. And Louisiana people will be there to help.

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