Today is Aug 8, 2016 and the floods in Louisiana are destroying life, property, and safety. People like Thomas Hampton are putting faith in action in the face of the disaster. The unprecedented flooding in the Baton Rouge area found people ill prepared for the devastation. We were able to reach out to local Pagan Elder Thomas Hampton. He serves as one of the men and women who are engaging in the work that is needed to restore this community.
For those of us outside of the Louisiana area, could you please tell us who you are and what parish you live in?
I live in Livingston Parish.
You are a business owner and minister there, correct?
Are you on the high ground?
How badly hit is Denham Springs right now?
The flood waters have receded. Our major high school (1500 enrolled) and the freshman high (745 enrolled) took several feet of water and will require months of construction. Business up and down both of the towns major corridors, Range Avenue and Florida Boulevard, have almost all taken water damage. The number of vehicles that were destroyed is staggering.
You have been going out and putting your hands to work to help. Can you tell us about what you have been doing and what help seems to be needed most right now?
Hauling out carpet, bagging up and throwing out possessions, hauling out furniture, and trying to make sure cleaning supplies, food, water, and tools get to those who need them most. What everyone really needs right now is hands. If not hands, then cash. A massive amount of people are going to be displaced for the next month or two, and when you are waiting for insurance reimbursements and can’t work because your business is still getting rebuilt…cash is king.
What material supports that folks could send down there that would be the most useful?
Gloves, box cutters, socks, underwear, and toiletries.
Friends and neighbors are the first line of care, how have you all come together during this crisis?
Family then tribe, then community at large. It’s not the official motto, but that’s how it generally goes. Everyone looks to their family first then spreads attention out to their tribe, or circle of friends and neighbors, if you want to call it that, then out to the community at large.
A cousin of mine from out of state called an ex boyfriend and told him her uncle’s house flooded and he had no elp. Ex boyfriends family was okay, his tribe had plenty of hands, so off he went to help his ex girlfriends uncle rip out carpet. This is not an unusual occurence.
How do you feel social media has been helpful in getting people the help they need?
AT&T cellular lost service here for three days, and it’s the market giant here, which means that most people couldn’t make phone calls out. I can say with total honesty that communication through Facebook saved lives during the flood rescues. It continues today to be a resource for getting help where it’s most needed.
What agencies have been through there to offer assistance? Have they been able to stop through yet?
A few of the local restaurants that weren’t affected have set up all day bbq kitchens at busy intersections and are feeding people for free. They take food donations and cook em there. Red Cross has been around, and the National Guard has set up a few posts to hand out MRE’s and bottled water. There have been more, no doubt, but I haven’t paid much attention to them.
How bad is the damage right now?
The Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Department has estimated that 100,000 of the parishes 130,000 residents have taken on flood damage. Flood damage almost always means you have to toss out all furniture, rip out cabinets, floors, sheet rock, and insulation, in every room in the house. This area has never in our recorded history seen rains nearly this bad. The two major rivers crested many feet above their previously recorded high, which in and of itself was a bit of a freak occurence of weather in 1983.
Is it getting worse rapidly or is it stabilizing?
Stabilizing a bit. We have months before the debris will be cleared and there is no way some businesses will recover from this. Think of a boxer that just got knocked down. We got up enough to stop the count, but we still have to get our feet under us, find our balance, stand, and start fighting again.
What do you want people to know about the folks affected by this disaster?
The cities and areas hit have not in recorded history received that much rainfall in such a short amount of time. The rivers rose rapidly, and backwater flooding hit lands that had never seen flooding before. A lot of these homes had no flood insurance. This wasn’t ‘just another Louisiana flood’. This was apocalyptic.
As a minister, have you been calling on your faith to bolster you?
I did during the rains and before the river crested. I have my wife, three babies, and three dogs, only one of which I actually like, to care for.
Do you feel that the stories that need to get out here are being covered by media right now?
Our local media is crushing it. Watching those guys during the storm and the rising floodwater, when internet feed would allow it, was almost inspiring. Our local guys are beasts when it comes down to covering local crises. On a national level, no. It’s been weak, and under reported, and glossed over for other events going on that are, for lack of a better word, sexier.
What can the readers of this article do that would help this situation?
If you want to fire-and-forget help, donate to the specific division of the Red Cross that is covering this disaster area. I am unsure as to how, but supposedly there’s a way. Otherwise, careful screening of some of the Go Fund Me’s that are popping up is another way. Or show up and get dirty. I know some elderly and disabled who still need their homes gutted.
Is there anything you want to say to the folks reading this?
A lot of people are here are about to get a crash course on exactly what FEMA and their insurance will actually cover. Do yourself a favor, call your insurance agent, and start asking questions about what is covered in a disaster and how to file properly.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. As I first spoke to Elder Hampton, he was just about to go out and get his hands dirty to go help tear out some drywall. It was early morning there, and it was good fortune to have caught him.
Designated parishes: Acadia Parish, Ascension Parish, Avoyelles Parish, East Baton Rouge Parish, East Feliciana Parish, Evangeline Parish, Iberia Parish, Iberville Parish, Jefferson Davis Parish, Lafayette Parish, Livingston Parish, Pointe Coupee Parish, St. Helena Parish, St. Landry Parish, St. Martin Parish, St. Tammany Parish, Tangipahoa Parish, Vermilion Parish, Washington Parish and West Feliciana Parish.
Last question, can folks send donated supplies to your store?
Yes. 35292 Woodrose Lane, Denham Springs, LA 70706.
FEMA set up a page to coordinate resources for those affected by the flooding. We list them here for our readers.
Contact loved ones: Register with the Red Cross Safe & Well site.
Filing a Flood Insurance Claim:National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Flood Claims Process
Updates: Read their blog post for an update on the flood response.
Readers, if you can help, please do so. If you are on a mobile phone device, you can also text the word LAFLOODS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to the American Red Cross in Louisiana. If you need help, visit disasterassistance.gov to apply for assistance.
Correction: Thomas Hampton’s religious title is Elder. This article referred to him as Reverend in previous release.