New Study Indicated Louisiana Parishes with Highest Flood Risk in the Nation

A new study laying out nationwide flood risks is highlighting a problem that Louisiana residents know all too well: the risk of flooding. According to an article from The Advocate, this study not only highlights several Louisiana parishes as having the highest risk of flooding nationwide, but the analysis is serving as further evidence for State officials advocating for flood mitigation and coastal protection projects.

The new study by the First Street Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit organization, uses a formula that assesses threats to residences, commercial properties, and roads to determine the top 20 counties across the United States at the greatest risk of flooding. Of these 20, eight are Louisiana parishes within the top 15, seven parishes are in the top 10, and Louisiana Parishes comprise the top four parishes in the nation. Cameron Parish sits at the top of the list at No. 1, followed by Orleans, Jefferson, and St. Bernard parishes.  Also noted throughout the study are Plaquemines, Terrebonne, St. Charles, and St. John the Baptist.

The head of research and development at First Street, Dr. Jeremy Porter said of the survey, “our primary goal was just to raise awareness around the infrastructure at risk in these communities so people knew. If their home, for instance, was raised 20 feet — they’ve adapted their home for the area they live in – their power plants or their police stations or their fire stations may still be at risk. What we are advocating for is the use of proper flood and risk tools for understanding that risk.”

Louisiana state officials are said to be using models very similar to the one utilized by First Street to plan and prioritize various flood mitigation projects through the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) and the Louisiana Watershed Initiative.

The CPRA has a coastal master plan that is kept up-to-date every six years. In this plan are various outlines for how the state of Louisiana would spend $50 billion over a half-century, or fifty years, on levees, flood control structures, shoreline protection, and coastal restoration. Planning of this magnitude and longevity has positioned Louisiana as a leader among those areas of the nation looking to address land loss and flood protection on such a massive scale. This, of course, comes as a result of vast portions of the state eroding away or being inundated by the Gulf of Mexicoat shockingly quick rates.

Looking forward, concerns have arisen as to whether or not the CPRA’s coastal master plan can be financed. CPRA executive director Bren Haase told Advocate reporters, “having that single vision for our coast has been very, very beneficial if you think back to the BP oil spill, past storms that we’ve had to deal with and now looking ahead at recovery from Hurricane Ida. As the federal government is looking to invest in infrastructure and recovery across the nation, not just here in south Louisiana, I think we’re well-positioned to make a very, very good case that ‘hey, we know what we want to do, it’s the right thing to do and it’s worth funding.’”

Outside of the CPRA’s coastal master plan is the Louisiana Watershed Initiative, which has been aiming to improve the method in which Louisiana deals with flood risks. The initiative does this by approaching the issue from the standpoint of a watershed instead of a city or parish, thus dividing the state into eight watershed regions and prioritizing projects under a scoring system.

Already, the Watershed initiative has selected over $400 million in projects, ranging from an east Slidell ring levey to massive drainage improvements to be made in Ascension Parish. This intel comes from the head of Louisiana’s Office of Community Development, Pat Forbes, who oversees the initiative. He was quoted as saying, “the watershed initiative is not just about spending the $1.2 billion that (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)sent us for mitigation activities. It’s about changing the way that we manage flood risk.”

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Lafourche Levee Systems Withheld Most Water from Ida

For all the damage left behind by Hurricane Ida, matters could have been made much worse if the levee system of South Lafourche had failed, but the levees held strong when it mattered most, according to an article from HoumaToday that details the strength of Lafourche’s levees.

On August 30, 2021, it was reported by the Associated Press that Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards examined a preliminary survey of the state’s levees, and he reached the conclusion that the levee systems, thankfully, had done “exactly as they intended and held the water out during Hurricane Ida.”

Hurricane Ida initially made its landfall on the shores of Port Fourchon on August 29, 2021. When it touched land, it was a vigorously strong Category 4 storm with winds of 150 mph. These finds blew down countless trees and decimated many homes in its path, but they were not able to penetrate the South Lafourche Levee system despite facing a particularly high storm surge of 12 to 15 feet.

Windell Curole is the executive director of the South Lafourche Levee District, and after he had spent hours looking over the Lafourche levee system in late September, he had said, “it’s still amazing looking at what took place and the power of that storm. This levee was originally designed for a strong Category 2 or a weak 3. It was a close call. There were no guarantees.”

Curole continued to detail how essential the levee system’s foundation was throughout the roughest parts of the storm by saying, “ We knew the winds were extremely strong for an extremely long time. We didn’t get a chance to get to the pump station and the floodgates for 18 hours. I’ve never seen South Lafourche look so bad. That wind came in and just tore it up. If we would’ve had a levee breach, we think people would have died. You can’t move when the wind is blowing like it was. There would have been 5 or 6 feet of water in some of those houses. We are very fortunate that didn’t happen.”

The news of Lafourche’s successful levees was well-received being that the United States Corps of Army Engineers had decertified south Lafourche’s hurricane-protection system after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They had attributed the decertification to the levees lying too low to be able to provide adequate protection.

At one time, the ring levee in South Lafourche was only 13 feet high in the south and nearly 8 feet high in the north, but after residents passed a 1-cent sales tax in 2015, the system was appropriately elevated. A new building program was created in the district to raise the levee to at least 16 feet and 13 feet above sea level on the south and north ends, respectively.

Additionally, praise came in from Washington to celebrate the Lafourche levee’s strength, as it was reported that United States Representative Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, praised Curole and the entire district for taking the time necessary and putting in additional effort to improve the levee system. He said, “Curole and the Levee District worked with the citizens of Lafourche Parish and the State of Louisiana to help invest in better hurricane-protection projects for our community. Despite the headwinds of cease-and-desist letters, legal threats, and government red tape, they succeeded. They knew that if they could get the Larose to Golden Meadow system elevated, lives, homes, businesses, and communities could be spared from future storms. The levees held, and their effort saved a lot of lives and prevented severe destruction.”

It’s certainly affirming to learn that despite experiencing some of the toughest storm conditions South Louisiana has seen in some time, that our vital levee systems are maintaining the peace by doing what they’re built to do: protect and withhold.

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Hurricane Ida Relief for Louisiana Citizens

Many Louisiana citizens and their families were unfavorably affected by the dangerous winds, storm surges, and torrential conditions of Hurricane Ida in August, but many Louisiana organizations and communities have banded together to create a plethora of resources for anyone affected by the storm to take advantage of, according to several news outlets, including KATC.

Hurricane Ida was the second major hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, and it stands as one of the most damaging hurricanes to ever strike Louisiana. Worth noting, Hurricane Ida made landfall near Port Fourchon on August 29, 2021: the sixteenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. In its path, it left destruction that devastated the bayou and river parishes of Louisiana. In true Louisiana form, citizens across the state in areas less affected by the storm jumped at the opportunity to provide valuable resources and start mutual aid funds and donation drives for those impacted.

FEMA Assistance

All homeowners and renters in the 25 Louisiana parishes hit by Hurricane Ida can now begin to apply for FEMA assistance. On the Wednesday following the storm, Governor John Bel Edwards announced, “everybody out there who is a Hurricane Ida survivor needs to apply to FEMA for individual assistance. It doesn’t happen automatically. To apply, go to or call 1-800-621-3362.

Operation Blue Roof

One of the more immediately helpful resources available to homeowners in select parishes is the ability to apply to have the Army Corps of Engineers cover their damaged roofs for free by using fiber-reinforced sheeting throughOperation Blue Roof. To sign up, go to or call 1-888-766-3258. The Army Corp had installed approximately 14,000 blue tarps in southwest Louisiana last year after Hurricane Laura.

Food Assistance

In Ida’s wake, many grocery stores were closed, damaged, or both, meaning that much of their food supply was lost, defrosted, or destroyed as a result. This led to many food banks thinking of unconventional ways to procure food for the communities they serve. When they were made aware of this, authorities at the parish, state, and federal level began siling and processing paperwork to expand the state’s food stamp program to those suffering from the storm who wouldn’t otherwise qualify for food stamps due to their income level being too high.

In light of Hurricane Ida,  DSNAP,  the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is expected to be activated soon. This version of the program not only expands SNAP benefits to more people but also waives some previously-held restrictions such as participants not being allowed to purchase “hot food products prepared for immediate consumption” with their benefits. The waiver being applied for will allow for “SNAP recipients to use their benefits to buy prepared foods available at any retailer that accepts EBT cards, usually grocery stores.”

It’s expected that DSNAP benefits are be approved and go into effect one to two weeks after Ida made landfall, so until then citizens should pre-register by visiting or by calling 225-342-6700 between the hours of 8:00 am and 5:00 PM Monday through Friday. Additionally, anyone wanting to receive DSNAP updates should text ‘LADSNAP’ to 898-211.

Outside of DNSAP benefits, Louisiana’s food banks have been hard at work coordinating with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry for supplies. Additionally, Koret Patty, the executive director of the statewide association of food banks known as Feeding Louisiana, applied on the Tuesday following Ida’s impact to temporarily suspend the proof of income documentation required for those receiving commodities from a food bank.

In the week following the storm, food banks in the greater Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas were setting up food and water stations across their respective cities; the Red Cross had set up mobile kitchens in LaPlace, Morgan City, and Hammond; several food and supply stations were installed across Lafourche Parish in Thibodaux, Raceland, Lockport, and Golden Meadow; and the Louisiana Workforce Commission was supervising the feedings conducted at state shelters.

Places to Donate

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Senate Resolution to Congratulate First Louisianan to Win National Spelling Bee

After Zaila Avant-garde became the first Louisianan to ever win the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee on July 8, 2021, Louisiana senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy introduced a resolution to the Senate congratulating her on her massive achievement, according to a KATC article.

Born in Harvey, Louisiana, the 14-year-old Zaila Avant-garde became not only the first Louisiana resident to win first prize at the 93rd annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, but   Avant-garde was the first African-American Champion of the event in its total 96-year history.

The final rounds of the event took place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida after the event had originally been postponed the previous year due to COVID-19. Avant-garde, whose last name is in honor of the jazz legend John Coltrane, won the competition by correctly spelling the word “murraya,” which is defined by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as being “a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees having pinnate leaves and flowers with imbricated petals.”

Upon winning the competition, Avant-garde, who has only been spelling competitively for just two years, quickly became a notable household name in the United States as she was congratulated by numerous celebrities, nationalinstitutions, and American presidents.

Throughout the competition, Zaila Avant-garde was very vocal about her dream to attend Harvard University after high school, but that hasn’t stopped Louisiana’s higher learning institutions from attempting to recruit her just hours following her win. Just one day after she had claimed the $50,000 grand prize for correctly spelling her final word, Avant-garde had received a formal invitation from the Louisiana Community and Technical College System offering her a full-ride scholarship to attend any of Louisiana’s community and technical colleges.

This preliminary offer was then followed by William Tate, the newly-named president of Louisiana State University, offering the teenage champion a full-ride scholarship to the LSU Roger Hadfield Ogden Honors College the following morning. Afterward, Baton Rouge’s Southern University became the third Louisiana academic institution to offer Avant-garde a full-ride scholarship.

Like LSU’s president, Southern University president-chancellor Ray L. Benton offered the scholarship to Zaila via Twitter, but Benton also created a “Zaila Day” at the school in honor of the speller’s remarkable achievement, saying, “”our student leaders, faculty, and alumni look forward to meeting with you. We welcome you to the #JaguarNation!”

So now, outside of her being gifted numerous scholarships from academic institutions, appearing on NBC’s “Today” show, and receiving an invitation to attend the ESPY Awards from the event’s celebrity host Anthony Mackie, Avant-garde has a biography and a congratulatory resolution in the senate thanks to Louisiana senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy.

The full resolution highlights the younger speller’s many accomplishments in the world of spelling such as her spending “most of her days spelling around 13,000 words per day” and going on to having “survived several rounds of fierce competition this year” facing off against competitors “from across the United States, American Samoa, the Bahamas, Canada, Europe, Guam, Jamaica, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.”

The resolution also highlights the impressive fact that Zaila Avant-garde currently holds three Guinness World Records for basketball, specifically for the most basketballs dribbled simultaneously, the most basketball bounces, and the most bounce juggles in one minute.

The Senate resolution continued to congratulate Avant-garde on winning the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee, an event that is described as being “the largest and longest-running educational promotion in the United States and is administered by the E.W. Scripps Company and local sponsors, most of whom publish daily and weekly newspapers.”

Apart from the congratulations, the resolution also served to solidify the fact that the champion, named “Miss Zaila” in the resolution, is the first winner from the State of Louisiana as well as the first African-American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, thus bringing “an immense sense of pride” to her hometown of Harvey and the state as a whole.

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New Iberian to Compete in Olympic Pole Vaulting

A New Iberia Native is set to compete in Olympic Pole Vaulting in the Tokyo 2020 Games, according to this feature from The Advocate. The event will be held in Tokyo, Japan from July 23 to August 8, 2021; the event was postponed in March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At only 22 years old, New Iberia, Louisiana’s  Morgann Leleux will be competing in pole vaulting as a member of the United States Women’s Track and Field Olympic Team. Leleux competed in the women’s pole vault finals at the US Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday, June 26th; at the event she finished second to qualify for the Summer Olympic Games.

At the pole vaulting finals, Leleux finished second in pole vaulting with a personal-best clearance of 15 feet and 5 inches; the clearance rate was behind Katie Nageortte’s 16-2.75 rate and ahead of Sandi Morris’s 15-1 clearance.

Despite this, Leleux told reporters that she was much more anxious and nervous for the recently-held qualifying trials than these Eugene Olympic trials, saying “there was a lot more on the line. Everything was on the line to make the finals. Once I made the finals, in my mind I was focused on winning.”

Born in New Iberia, Louisiana, Morgann Leleixux was a multi-state champion at Catholic High School, and an All-American and SEC Champion at the University of Georgia, and a 2016 All-American graduate at the University of Louisiana, where she was also an alternate for the 2016 Olympic Games.

One week after she qualified for the Summer 2020 Games, Morgann Leleux returned to her hometown to participate in a July 2nd parade that honored the famous pole vaulter. Hosted by Mayor Freddie DeCourt, the parade began in front of New Iberia’s City Hall and celebrated throughout the city’s downtown on Friday, July 2nd with citizens cheering their support for Leleux along the city’s East Main Street.

Before the postponement of the 2020 Summer Games due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, she was also expected to make a run for the Tokyo Qualifying match, so now that she has her shot, Leleaux says that she doesn’t want to waste it.

Leleux said, “I’m a way-better vaulter than I was in 2016. Mentally, I’m tougher. I’m more confident in myself. I have the physical ability, I’m injury-free and I’ve also worked a lot on the mental side of it. It could have been any one of five of us today. I knew I had to fight, bar by bar, one at a time. To be honest with you, we’re all going to have to jump higher in the Games, but my attitude is that I’m going there to medal.”

It’s important to note that Morgann Leleux won’t be the only Acadiana-area athlete to compete in the upcoming Olympic Games; she is joined alongside Nicole Ahsinger and Aliaksei Shostak in trampoline gymnastics and  Armand “Mondo” Duplantis in pole vaulting as well.

While Leleux is the eighth-ever Ragin’ Cajuns athlete to qualify for the Olympic Summer Games, she is entering the competition alongside the world indoor record holder in pole vaulting: Duplantis. Seen as the favorite at this year’s games, Duplantis is an American-born, Swedish pole vaulter who attended Lafayette High School and will be competing against Leleux in pole vaulting at the Summer Games.

Everyone on Morgan Leleux’s support team from her various coaches, family members, and friends are excited to see her compete with world-class athletes internationally this summer, as they’ve always seen great things for the pole vaulting stand out.

Morgann’s father and youth coach, Shane Leleux, said of his daughter, “her maturity level is off the charts right now. I hate to use a baseball analogy, but I will. When she was on her third try at 4.6 (meters), it was like having three balls and two strikes with two out in the ninth inning, and in my mind, she was the last batter, and all she did was hit it out of the park.”

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Proposals May Give Louisiana a New State Motto and an Additional Song

Two bills that recently passed through Louisiana’s House Judiciary Committee proposed a change to the state’s motto and a new addition to the official state songs, as detailed in an article from The Daily Advertiser.

In early May, State Representative Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville, proposed HB 17, which would change the Louisiana state motto from “Union, Justice, Confidence” to “We live and die for those we love.” After much deliberation and well-supported arguments from the congressman, the proposal passed by a vote of 10-2.

Representative Nelson supported his bill by reminding House Judiciary Committee members that the current state motto was never established by a passed statute, thus making it the perfect time to instate a new motto that is “much more indicative of who we are as a people, what we believe and stand for as a people, and what sets us apart from everywhere else,” according to Nelson.

He went on to clarify that forms of the proposed new motto already exist on Louisiana law licenses and the very walls of the State Capitol building. When committee members passed the bill, they added that the new statute would not require any official state flags, buildings, or seals to be corrected as a result of the motto change as the bill would only ensure the new slogan as the official Louisiana motto going forward.

Nelson remarked, “we’re not going to tear up any carpets or tear up any flags. If we were going to build a new state capitol, this motto would be on the building instead. When new flags are bought, they will have the new motto.”

Later during the same Judiciary Committee meeting, Representatives Vincent Pierre, D-Lafayette, and Matthew Willard, D-New Orleans, presented HB351, which proposed an additional entry to Louisiana’s official state songs.

As of now, the state currently holds five titles as its official state song: Doralise Fontane’s “Give Me Louisiana,” Jimmie Davis’s “You Are My Sunshine” and “State March Song,” and Frances LeBeau’s  “Gifts of the Earth.”

HB351 passed through the Judiciary Committee, and it proposes the addition of Louisiana musician Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights” to the state records. Toussaint originally wrote the song and released it on the album of his of the same name in 1975.

Louisiana Zydeco musician and two-time Grammy Award winner Terrance Simien expressed his support for the inclusion of Toussaint’s song and lasting Louisiana legacy by saying “Allen Toussaint was a true Louisiana legend. I’ve been talking to a lot of people in the music world, and this song would be a great addition to our state songs. Allen was not only a great artist but also a great human being. I just can’t say enough about him and just want to ask you to consider this.”

The case for Allen Toussaint’s inclusion is strong, as the musician is a well-respected Louisiana musician who is a member of not only the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame but the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame, andthe Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After hearing the strong case for “Southern Nights” and having Judiciary Committee members praise and uphold the Toussaint Legacy, HB351 passed without any objections.

Toussaint, a New Orleans-based musician who played alongside Elvis Costello, Professor Longhair, Dr. John, and Irma Thomas, originally wrote “Southern Nights” while he was in Houma, Louisiana and missing his family in New Orleans. The song’s lyrics give testament to the themes of family and longing that are well-known to the average Louisiana citizen. Furthermore, the images depicted in the song of “weeping willows [crying] for joy” and “precious beauty” noticed in the “southern skies” above are a part of a shared Louisiana imagery that all who call this state their home can relate to.

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