We’re less than one week from the two-year anniversary of the worst natural disaster in the history of Livingston Parish, a benchmark which will likely make many of us look at where we have come in the period since the storm.
The August 2016 flood in Livingston Parish – which seems almost like a benchmark in history – has brought about plenty of the good, the bad and the ugly of the recovery process.
We’ll start out with the good. Livingston Parish defied expectations in terms of comeback in fiscal stability, businesses and services and the return to what most of us consider the way of life that keeps us here.
The sales tax spike due to the sale of autos, building materials, home furnishings and appliances kept the funds solid for local and parish governments in a time frame when many of us at the onset feared it would take years to rebound. Even when the sales of those items trickled over the past year, the intake remains better than it was prior to the flood.
Schools have held their own, even amid the struggles of operating in temporary buildings – and the school system continues to achieve test scores among the top 10 in the state. The school resilience matches the same spirt as the residents who have not let the hardships of the flood stop them from moving ahead in life.
The Bad: The struggles schools and parish government face with FEMA continue, even after the Livingston Parish school system got the green light to move ahead with demolition of two schools whose flood damages were too severe to warrant repair. The school system faces wrangling on construction issues with FEMA before it can begin rebuilding the schools, in itself a probable three-year journey.
The Ugly: Homeowners remain in battles with FEMA and their insurance companies over repair work to their homes.
In many cases, we have seen residents pack up and leave their homes to (literally) seek higher ground. In the wake of the move, we have seen an increase in blighted property throughout the parish, which has hurt respectable areas.
Parish and municipal governments now face the task of determining what blighted property should be eliminated and moving forward with condemnation procedures. It’s never a move government bodies enjoy, but it’s a necessity.
The two years after the flood have proven, without doubt, that government, churches, schools, businesses and residents have chosen to move forward rather than throw in the towel after the flood.
At the same time, tough challenges lie ahead. We can give thanks for remaining resilient in the wake of challenges, but we must not overlook the obstacles that loom ahead.