April rains may bring May flowers, but in seven southwestern Louisiana parishes it brought a federal disaster declaration.
During the period from April 4 to May 23, 2017, rains inundated the parishes of Acadia, Allen, Avoyelles, Evangeline, Jefferson Davis, Rapides and St. Landry. The heavy rains and commiserate flooding damaged agricultural production in the area.
On June 21, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared Evangeline parish the primary natural disaster area in the state and included the surrounding six parishes in the declaration. Agricultural producers who lost money due to the weather event may apply for low-interest disaster loans through the Farm Service Agency. The loans cover both production losses and quality losses. To qualify, an agricultural producer must experience at least a 30 percent reduction in a primary crop or a quality impact that results in receiving at least a 30 percent reduced price for the crop. They must also have been turned down by a commercial lender. The producer may spend the funds on any of the following items:
The FSA will accept loan applications for eight months from the declaration date. It provides loan forms and instructions on its website.
The spring rains damaged far more than crops. For instance, the thunderstorms on May 3 and 4, 2017 flooded southwestern Louisiana and parts of southern Texas, causing widespread road accidents. Slow moving storms meant continuous long-term precipitation. Some storms stalled over the area, drenching it. This created localized flash floods, according to The Weather Channel. On May 3, in Iowa (Calcasieu Parish), Louisiana, a school bus ran off the road into floodwaters. All of the students on board were rescued. Multiple vehicle crashes occurred the same day. State troopers responding to the accidents attributed them to drivers maintaining too high of speeds for conditions. High water on roads in Lake Charles, Sulphur and Moss Bluff caused more than 50 cars to stall on the road.
In Acadia, some homes sustained damage when winds ripped off portions of the roofs. In the Lake Charles area, a church flooded, as did an elementary school in Scott. Firefighters evacuated 76 nursing home residents in a convoy of buses before flood waters reached the facility in Sulphur.
The year before another set of strong storms battered Louisiana. During mid-August 2016, rains dumped 20 to 30 inches of water on southern Louisiana. The town of Watson received 31.39 inches of rain in a two-day period. In some of the affected area, the two-day rainfall total had a 0.2% chance of occurring during any given year. In weather speak, that makes the 2016 flood a 500 year event.
The 2016 flood caused more than $1 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. It destroyed or damaged more than 50,000 houses, 20,000 businesses and 100,000 vehicles. It necessitated the rescue of about 30,000 people.
For the residents of southern Louisiana, the two floods in consecutive years create a devastating cumulative economic effect. The 2016 floods wreaked the most damage in the US since 2012’s Superstorm Sandy hit the northeast states. Although this year’s event caused less damage than the 2016 event, its occurence so soon after the 500 year flood could hamper the recovery of residents of the seven affected counties.