The weather forecast calls for rain, but what no one predicts is the record shattering night to come. In mid August of 2016, South East Louisiana was hammered by torrential rainfall. Some rivers broke record crests by over 4 and 6 ft, records that date back all the way to 1922. Amidst the chaos, many lost their homes, their belongings and tragically some lost their lives.
Saturated South East Louisiana was a disaster zone. Some highways saw upwards of 6 ft over the roadways, this left thousands of people stranded, and called for many diligent efforts by first responders, national guard and able people alike. As the turmoil begins to settle with the historic flood waters receding, friends and families are returning to the aftermath with heavy hearts.
My mother was one of the thousands that were stranded as the water rose. She was traveling through the state to visit family in Alabama and boy did she have an adventure ahead of her. Somehow she found herself on high ground, and luckily was not swept off the road by rising water, but she was trapped on a section of Interstate with hundreds of other vehicles, surrounded by water with absolutely no where to go. Through this experience, her eyes were opened to so many things. How truly fast things can go wrong, how important it is to be as prepared as possible in an emergency situation, and how when we are not prepared, how strongly we rely on the ability of others. Below are seven lessons she shared with me when looking back on it all.
7 Survival Lessons Learned in a Flood
#1 Be Prepared for an Emergency
Looking back on the chaos, one of the biggest things that could have made a difference was being prepared. Having supplies in the car, could have made so much of the initial headache and worry subside. Aside from being in a safe location out of the weather, knowing that you have water, or can get water was a very pressing matter. This is where having a "Get Home Bag" would have been invaluable.
#2 Check the Weather and Local News Before Traveling
Although weather predictions are not always accurate, seeing as they are predictions for the future, at least if you have an idea of what to expect, you can prepare. Have a sound idea of what you will be heading into, so you are in the right mindset to deal with the circumstances that may arise on the road.
#3 Always Be Situationally Aware
Holiday packed roadways, natural disaster circumstances, or normal everyday commuting, you should always be aware of your surroundings. In an everyday or survival situation, you need to continually assess the conditions around you. As my mom was stranded on that stretch of highway she recalls thinking about all of her possibilities if the water continued to rise, one of which included scaling the ladder on the gas station adjacent to her to get to higher ground. Whatever the case may be, be aware, be flexible, and have a plan of action if needed.
#4 Have A Buddy System
When the stakes are high, some things just go out the window, but don't let teamwork be one of them. If you are in a group of people during this time, find a way to work together to accomplish your common goal. In a natural disaster, that may mean assigning tasks to those who are able like securing food, water or shelter, or it could mean working as a team to make it out alive. Just remember the value of collaborated forces.
#5 Keep Your Wits About You
It is all too easy to be negative or loose hope in a time of struggle, but having the will power to keep a positive attitude can move mountains. During the period of which my mom was stranded, before being rescued by the national guard, I was astonished by the positive attitude that she held the entire time, despite her circumstances. I remember asking her is she was okay, and she matter of factly said "I have no choice but to be okay, worrying will get me nowhere..." and that couldn't have been more true. Stay calm, and be positive, anything else will benefit you none.
#6 Helping Others Helps Yourself
Every emergency situation is unique, and carries its own circumstances, but when able to help others during this time, more often then not you are helping yourself in return. Amidst the turmoil of an emergency, caring for an individual or tending to someone else needs, can in turn force you to stay calm and focus. This mindset will further allow you to keep your wits about you, and stay in tune with what needs to happen to get out of that situation.
#7 Listen to Local Officials and First Responders
Although these folks may not always have all of the answers, they are likely to be informed and aware of the situation at hand. Listening or staying in contact with them during an emergency will allow you to stay up to date on information you may not otherwise be aware of. They are stewards after all, and keeping and restoring order is what they are called to do.