Flood hit area exactly 1 year ago

Published 5:28 am Saturday, March 11, 2017

Friday, March 11, 2016 was a historic day across Washington Parish, and now, incredibly, a year has passed. On this day one year ago, rivers and creeks overflowed their banks, and the floodwaters gouged and ravaged private residences and businesses, as well as public places. Before the waters subsided, well over $10.9 million of damage was done.

Bogalusa Director of Public Works James Hall said, “right at $1 million of damage” was done in Cassidy Park alone. In Franklinton, the Washington Parish Fairgrounds sustained $340,000 in damages.

Information provided by Washington Parish President Richard N. Thomas offers a timeline of that fateful day.

He said the parish Emergency Operations Center was activated at 2 a.m., and first responders were notified to begin advising the public of potential rise of Bogue Chitto River. A state of emergency was declared at 5a.m.

Before 6 a.m., the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office, with the assistance of Rayburn Correctional Center, the Louisiana National Guard, and local fire departments, began search and rescue efforts across the parish.

Two shelters were opened, with the support of the American Red Cross. One was located at the Elizabeth Sullivan Memorial United Methodist Church in Bogalusa and one was set up in the Franklinton High School gymnasium. Due to the fact that a number of roads were quickly flooded, fire departments began taking residents to their stations until they were able to get them safely to the shelters.

Later in the day a third shelter was opened in the Varnado High School gymnasium, and the American Red Cross began feeding displaced citizens.

The Washington Parish EOC began working with Heritage Manor and Riverside Medical Center for possible evacuations. Over the course of the afternoon, Riverside Medical Center decided to shelter in place. Heritage Manor residents were evacuated to Good Samaritan Nursing home and to Rest Haven Living Center.

Thomas reported that Washington Parish was inundated with between 15 and 18 inches of rain in a short period, which caused creeks and streams to overflow and ultimately caused flash flooding.

Thomas said that on March 10, 2016 at 4 p.m. the Bogue Chitto River in Franklinton was at 1.15 feet and was forecast to crest at 11.4 feet by March 12. However, by 2 a.m. on March 11, the river was at 10.4 feet and forecast to rise to 15.5. That was why the parish EOC was activated at that time, Thomas said.

At around 7 p.m. on March 11 the Bogue Chitto at Franklinton crested at 24.27, a level that almost equaled and was forecast to surpass the 1983 flood — which crested at 24.69 feet — by 1.5 feet.

The Pearl River at Bogalusa crested at 22.75 feet by March 13.

By Saturday, March 12, the parish had begun a preliminary damage assessment. It ultimately found that the numerous parish roads, bridges and culverts that had sustained damage totaling $780,000, Thomas said.

“Based on reporting from our parish, as well as state and FEMA inspection data, some 2,710 households sustained damage as a result of the March floods,” Thomas reported. “Over $10.9 million in federal assistance has been paid directly to households in the parish to supplement and aid in their recovery and repair damages.  This figure includes funds disbursed to provide short-term rental assistance and funds to aid in rebuilding the homes.”

Additionally, the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provided $1,011,819 of support in Bogalusa and $888,441 in Franklinton, at approximately $368 per household.

Sine the flood, more than 1,250 people have visited the Disaster Relief Centers in Washington Parish to obtain information.

“The disaster recovery process is on-going,” Thomas said. “Our parish government is working closely with FEMA and state representatives, and will continue to do so as we rebuild and recover.”