environment

Tegan Wendland / WWNO

As extreme weather brings more natural disasters, like flooding and wildfires, more Americans are experiencing them in their own backyard or seeing them play out on TV. As a result, preparing for disasters might be more mainstream than in the past. National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers show is hugely popular. Families used to build bomb shelters; now people are packing emergency bags for the next big weather event. It’s become big business.

Hebert family / WWNO

For many in south Louisiana flooding is a part of daily life. You buy flood insurance, plan ahead and have a place to stay if there’s a big hurricane. But the floods this summer in and around Baton Rouge took a lot of people by surprise. Many of them had moved away from the coast after previous storms, and never thought it would happen there.

Louisiana is losing its coast at a rapid rate because of rising sea levels, development and sinking marshland. Officials are trying to rebuild those marshes and the wetlands, but much of the coast can't be saved. This makes Louisiana's history an unwitting victim. As land disappears and the water creeps inland, ancient archaeology sites are washing away, too.

Richie Blink was born and raised in Plaquemines Parish, La. — way down south of New Orleans along the Mississippi River. Now he works for the National Wildlife Federation.

Tegan Wendland / WWNO

As Louisiana’s coast continues to wash away, small towns close to the water are more and more at risk. Lots of people have moved further inland. Yet the towns themselves not only remain, they often defiantly insist that they’re sticking around. WWNO’s Coastal Desk is exploring the idea of “retreat” - who’s thinking about it, and who’s not.

Tegan Wendland / WWNO

The state is working hard to protect its’ disappearing coast - officials have come up with all sorts of solutions, from planting marshes to building levees. Some of these techniques are tried and tested - we know what happens when we build a levee. But in the state’s haste to do everything it can to save the coast, some of its approaches are a little more experimental.

Verdin family

Every five years, the state revamps its master plan to restore coastal Louisiana. This year, they’re hosting community meetings in coastal areas to tell people about master plan updates for 2017.

The Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority’s master plan is in the process of being updated, which happens every five years. The new plan includes “non structural” projects – like elevation, flood proofing, and even relocating people. In order to get local input, CPRA officials are hosting a series of community conversations along the coast.

Tegan Wendland / WWNO

Louisiana’s governor, John Bel Edwards, was in Washington DC last week lobbying Congress to approve a disaster aid package of nearly $3 billion to help with flood relief. Part of that would go to help small businesses recover. In addition to more than 140,000 homes, nearly 7,000 businesses were flooded-out.

Tegan Wendland / WWNO

Sea level rise and land loss is affecting communities all over the world, not just in Louisiana. But Louisiana has one of the first communities that will be entirely resettled as a result: the Isle de Jean Charles.

  

 


Debris lines the streets of Denham Springs, Louisiana after severe flooding
Ryan Kailath / WWNO

Tallying the fallout of the recent flooding in South Louisiana may take weeks or months. Beyond property damage to homes and businesses, there are also environmental costs—which some watchdog groups are measuring on their own.

 

 


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