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Communities rebuilding after Louisiana flooding

By Sister Lorraine Landry

On Aug. 12, 2016, life changed suddenly and unexpectedly for hundreds of families in Louisiana, including the families of four School Sisters of Notre Dame and one staff member at St. Mary of the Pines in Chatawa, Mississippi, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and many other cities and towns received almost 24 inches in 24 hours. Suddenly, the canals, streams and ditches could no longer empty into rivers, and water began to back up into towns, subdivisions, highways and streets. The water came so quickly that one sister’s family had to walk out of their subdivision and leave cars and possessions behind, while another had to be rescued by boat.

Cleanup begins at a home in Louisiana following the floods in August of 2016. The affected areas resemble the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It is heart-breaking to drive down streets and see families’ material possessions piled high in front of their homes and to know that cleanup will take many months. At the present time, homes have been gutted, and families are waiting for approval to begin construction, and countless hours have been spent with FEMA officials and insurance companies, but funds have been slow to arrive. After Katrina, New Orleans lost hundreds of families who never returned to the city because the city was slow to help the survivors find new housing. Baton Rouge does not want that to happen to the city, its suburbs, and the surrounding towns.

All students are in school, although not necessarily in their own schools. Most of the schools in the affected areas opened after Labor Day, but some schools will not be ready until the second semester. These schools are platooning with other schools - one will have morning sessions, the other, afternoon sessions, which seems to be working well. A new Christo Rey school, opened in Baton Rouge for only one month, was completely flooded, and classes are currently being held in a former shopping center. The hope is that all schools, except one, will be ready for use in January.

Many connected to SSNDs have been affected. Associates in Baton Rouge suffered from the flooding, either directly or through family members, and for days, they worked and helped each other and their neighbors clean their homes and remove water-soaked belongings. For SSND family members who were affected by flooding, some are doing very well and hope to be back in their completed homes by Christmas. Others returned to their unfinished homes and will continue to work on them as their personal funds become available.

Photo submitted by Sister Lorraine Landry

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