Report from Louisiana: How the South was Crippled by a Snow Storm

Posted: February 22, 2021 by Pat Austin in Uncategorized
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By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – As you are probably aware, the South was hit with a crippling snowstorm last week, something for which we are woefully unprepared.

In Shreveport it has been a “perfect storm” of catastrophe, and while I realize it could be so much worse (see: Lake Charles, LA where many still live in tents or gutted homes due to hurricanes), it has been mind boggling how less than a foot of snow can cripple a city for over a week.

Is it any coincidence that Shreveport’s infrastructure is crumbling, literally, and we have had three mayors since 2006, all Democrats?

Our water system is literally crumbling under the pothole ridden city streets. During this snow and ice event last week at least eight major water mains have broken and countless other leaks and breaks across Shreveport. As a result, some 10,000 people in town still do not have water, now into Day Seven. Most other water customers have very low water pressure. We have been under a boil advisory for a week and will be for at least five more days, minimum.

Other cities around us, I know, are also under boil advisories; we are not the only ones, to be fair.

But our Shreveport leadership had virtually no plan to address the aftermath of this storm. We do not have snowplows down here or stockpiles of salt for the roads. We don’t get this kind of thing very often, but when you have at least a week’s notice that a storm is coming, wouldn’t you expect leadership to have a plan for recovery?

Local volunteers are the ones who got out with tractors and other construction vehicles and on their own dime cleared the roads in the city.

Neighborhoods pulled together: those with water shared it with those who did not. No water distribution sites were set up by the City until seven days after the storm hit. Neighbors took care of each other.

If your water needed to be cut off at the meter because of a break, a neighbor was there to help you; if you called the City for help you either got a busy signal or a promise to come out in a day or two.

When the grocery stores were literally bare because trucks were stranded on the interstate for miles in both directions, neighbors shared their food and set up sites at local churches. The community donated meals to the veteran’s home who had no water and no food to feed the men.

On Saturday, six days after the storm and two days after the volunteer network cleared the roads, Mayor Adrian Perkins showed up for a photo op on social media praising the National Guard who just rolled into town to clear roads. I’m not throwing shade on the National Guard, but I have to wonder why a photo op is more important to Adrian Perkins than actually taking care of his people.

Three days ago, our City Council had “an emergency” meeting on Zoom to address overtime pay for city workers in this crisis and other issues. There were representatives from the water department and homeland security there as well. Shreveport’s Chief Administrative Officer, Henry Whitehorn (appointed by Mayor Perkins last year), told residents without water that they could call 211 and the city would pick them up and take them to a safe shelter until the crisis was over. People began calling 211 and nobody there knew anything about that, but they could provide the phone number to the food pantry.

Yesterday, seven days after the storm, the city set up a handful of water distribution sites that would open at noon. By 12:01 the site nearest to me was out of water (they started early) with lines of cars backed up for miles, waiting. There is no water in the stores to buy. The National Guard brought in water and people sat in these lines all day and got a case of water. The effort continues today, primarily by local volunteers and nonprofits.

All in all, this has been a mess and an utter failure of City leadership. From the power grid failures, to water failures, to leadership and communication failures, what has kept people going has been each other. Neighbors helping neighbors.

If this event has taught me anything, it is perhaps that sometimes we need to slow down, quit staring at screens, and become more involved in our communities. Appreciate the little things, like a toilet flushing without having to manually fill up the tank because there is no water pressure. Don’t take things for granted, like clean water coming out of your faucet. Help those among us that might need lifting up.

And hey, I’m ready for spring, y’all. Snow is pretty for a minute, but this girl is ready for spring.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

  1. Pod Hamp says:

    Your post speaks volumes about how to respond to disasters like this. Be prepared for what could happen, watch out for each other, and don’t rely on the government to take care of you. I hope that the lesson will sink in with at least a few of the people in the area so that the next time it happens (it will) they will be a bit readier to respond. You might informally ask around among neighbors or church members to see if they have any interest in some sort of mutual aid network. Not only for snow, but for hurricanes, and other emergencies. Sounds like your local government situation will only get worse as time goes on, based on this experience.

    It reminds me of a story my Mom told me about when she lived in Paul’s Valley OK back in the 1980s. They had a huge snowstorm that dumped about a foot of snow. The town was completely shut down. There were no snowplows, no salting or sanding. Everyone drove Impalas and Le Sabres without snow tires. My Mom was in the habit of going to the grocery store every couple of days to buy food for the upcoming couple of days. Eventually, after three or four days, there was some construction and road repair and farm equipment that was able to clear enough roads that she could get out to take care of my grandparents. Things didn’t get back to normal until the snow completely melted, though. It sounded ridiculous and slightly pathetic for someone like me who grew up in Wyoming where winter is (seemingly) always there. As I have gotten older, I have gotten more understanding and sympathetic.

  2. Jan_in_NH says:

    My sympathies to all of you, but I also have to tell you, those of us who get 6 feet or more of ice and snow sometimes for days, are looking at you with utter confusion.

  3. Pat Austin says:

    Oh Jan I know! My in-laws live in Iowa. My husband was raised on a farm there. But down here we just don’t have the equipment or experience with this. It cripples us. I know…it’s hysterical to people that have weather like this for several months. My niece howls with laughter when I tell her we have a “snow day” for an inch of sleet on the ground. 😂

  4. Pat Austin says:

    @Pod Oklahoma can get some wicked weather for sure. And that equipment you mentioned? That’s exactly what happened here. Good samaratins sick of waiting on government help stepped up!

  5. Bill Heffner says:

    Sick of waiting for government help? That’s our problem today. We expect the government to do everything for us. There shouldn’t have been a delay of waiting for government help. Community action should be the first response, not the last resort. Self help should be the norm.

  6. Lowell Angelette says:

    it amazes me at the stupidity of our governmental agencies. From mayor perkins to dumb bell edwards. There are oil and gas wells all over Louisiana that produce salt water that could have been used to make roads passable. Their attitude is wait the snow will melt. I can guarantee you the governors mansion and the mayors house had running water and electricity. Just remember this stupidity when these idiots want more money for anything. They clamor for additional taxes for everything, then squander the money by hiring buddies to manage whatever it was.Maybe if perkins would have spent a little time fixing Shreveport instead of running for senator this calamity could have been averted.

  7. Pat Austin says:

    Yes! And much of Louisiana is on a salt dome!