2016 began like any other year in Southwest Louisiana as Mardi Gras took the spotlight and the warmer January winter weather led to an early start to crawfish season, with no one imagining the disasters our state was about to face over the months ahead.
By early March, the rains came, and they didn't stop. Parts of Vernon and Beauregard parishes received over 18 inches of rain, filling the Sabine River basin and inundating communities from Burr Ferry to Evans, leaving little to no time for those living there to move to higher ground before it was too late.
The deluge of rain brought Toledo Bend Reservoir to it's highest level on record, forcing a record release by the Sabine River Authority of over 200,000 cubic feet per second of water through the spillway and down the Sabine, turning a usually tranquil stream into a raging wall of water.
A river now out of it's banks, and a torrent of water still being released from the dam upstream was the worst case scenario and led to record flooding
as the wall of water moved downstream throughout Beauregard and Calcasieu parishes over the days ahead.
The hardest hit areas in Southwest Louisiana began with the communities of Burr Ferry and Evans in western Vernon parish with the roaring Sabine reaching record heights and later threatened the town of Merryville in Beauregard parish as water approached the First Baptist Church and forced the closure of US Highway 190, a major artery between Louisiana and Texas.
The raging river continued downstream forcing evacuations before flooding parts of western Calcasieu Parish including parts of Starks, Toomey and Vinton.
The river completely inundated Nibletts Bluff Park, usually a popular destination for a weekend getaway, now a lake for a far as the eye can see.
Next the water reached I-10 with the west bound lanes taking on water near the Texas state line.
State police from both Texas and Louisiana kept the interstate open as long as possible, but an eventual closure of both east and westbound lanes was inevitable.
The closure lasted for 4 days, disrupting the flow of goods and services on the main thoroughfare between Louisiana and Texas, rerouting traffic to lengthy 6 to 8 hour detours while many attempted an escape to Texas through Cameron parish via LA-82, a road not meant to handle that amount of interstate traffic.
And then came August which brought yet another historic flood as a stalled area of low pressure dumped rain in excess of 2 feet over southeast and south central Louisiana, inundating entire towns including parts of the cities of Baton Rouge and Lafayette.
The August flood was far reaching, flooding most of Acadiana including parts of Southwest Louisiana in Jeff Davis, Acadia, Vermilion and Cameron parishes.
Floodwater reached the town of Lake Arthur as the rising Mermentau River rose out of it's banks to historic levels of nearly 11 feet.
People from Lake Charles and surrounding communities heard the call to action and acted quickly to build a levee in a Herculean effort to protect the town, keeping water out of the business and homes of those who call Lake Arthur home.
It's that spirit that keeps Louisiana strong, friends and neighbors coming together to help those in time of need as the clean-up and rebuilding continues across the state even to this day.
Here's to hoping for a much quieter 2017 but knowing we must always be prepared for the next storm.
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