The Anniversary of the Baton Rouge Flood of 2016 — Erica L. Williams

Four years ago, in August, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, experienced what was known as the Historic Flood of 2016, or what the locals called, “our Katrina.” The record level rainfall, more than what fell during Hurricane Katrina, deluged most of Baton Rouge and surrounding areas, killing 13 people, and destroying or damaging approximately 100,000 homes. It was the worst natural disaster in the United States since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

South Louisiana is used to storms and hurricanes. Louisianians pride themselves on storm preparedness. Cars are filled with gas in the event a quick getaway is needed. Gallons of water and non-perishable items are checked off the list. Home and flood insurance papers are moved to a safe place. Batteries for flashlights and radios are bought in bulk. Radio deejays provide weather updates. Music and CDs from Baton Rouge locals such as Pokey Bear, Tucka, and Kenny and Tyree Neal and them, can quickly turn a hurricane watch party into a blues and zydeco dance party.

Neighbors stack sandbags in front of doors, and board windows with plywood. People pack their coolers with ice in case the lights go out for days or weeks. Coals and meat are purchased for the grill. Wine is acquired, and liquor stockpiled; whatever tastes best warm in case ice is hard to find.

But unlike the storms or hurricanes that develop in the Gulf of Mexico and announce their arrivals days beforehand giving ample time to prepare, the unnamed storm of 2016 barreled in without a proper introduction, dumping, in some areas, more than 25 inches of rain in three days. In the aftermath, close to 20,000 people were rescued by boat from homes fast filling with water.

It was a damaging blow to Baton Rouge, a city that had experienced another devastation only a month prior. On July 5, 2016, Alton Sterling was killed by a Baton Rouge police officer while selling CDs at a convenience store in north Baton Rouge. In Dallas, Texas, two days later, a gunman, in retaliation for the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille, killed by a policeman in Minnesota, ambushed a group of Dallas policemen, killing five. Ten days later, in the wake of Sterling’s shooting, an armed man shot six police officers in Baton Rouge, killing three.

And then, in August, the Historic Flood of Baton Rouge happened.

And then, in September, my mama died of a heart attack. But I don’t think her heart attacked her. I believe it simply gave out after she witnessed her house she’d turned into a home for forty years submerged under eight feet of water.

And then, the same day my mama died, Colin Kaepernick took a knee for the first time. And then, in November, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton and became the 45 thpresident of the United States.

And then, the United States fell apart.

And then, in January of 2017, I cut all the perm out of my hair for the second time. And then, in April, a police officer murdered Jordan Edwards. And then, a police officer murdered Charleena Chavon Lyles. And then, Donald Trump called white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia “very fine people.”

And then, Donald Trump called NFL anthem protesters sons of bitches.

And then, a police officer murdered Antwon Rose, Jr. And then, a police officer murdered Stephon Alonzo Clark. And then, a police officer murdered Botham Shem Jean. And then, a police officer murdered fill in the blank.

And then, in 2019, a police officer murdered Elijah Jovan McClain. And then, a police officer murdered Atatiana Koquice Jefferson. And then, a police officer murdered fill in the blank. And then, in 2020, Donald Trump called the coronavirus a hoax. And then, Donald Trump told reporter Yamiche Alcindor to be nice.

And then, racists killed Ahmaud Marquez Arbery. And then, a police officer murdered Breonna Taylor. And then, a police officer murdered George Perry Floyd, Jr. And then, a police officer murdered Rayshard Brooks. And then, Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau was found dead. And then, Breonna Taylor’s killers are still free. And then, Donald Trump called protesters thugs. And then, 160,000 people died from the coronavirus. And then, an above-normal hurricane season was predicted by the National Weather Service.

And then, I rewind back to 2018. And then, Winnie Mandela died. And then, the Queen of Soul died. And then, Ntozake Shange died. And then fill in the blank died. And then, in 2019, Nipsey Hussle died. And then, John Singleton died. And then, Toni Morrison died. And then, Ernest Gaines died. And then, in 2020, Kobe Bryant died. And then, Wilona from Good Times died. And then, Pop Smoke died. And then, Bill Withers died. And then, Andre Harrell died. And then, the Clean Up Woman died. And then, Jasfly died. And then, John Lewis and C.T. Vivian died.

And then, Joe Biden chose Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate.

And then, Breonna Taylor’s killers are still free.

Originally published at https://ericalwilliams.com on August 16, 2020.

MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Work has appeared in Necessary Fiction, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Blood Orange Review, & elsewhere.

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