Baker mayor reflects on historic flood, progress made since

BAKER, LA (WAFB) - The one-year anniversary of the historic August flood is approaching fast but the record weather event that turned roads into rivers and wrecked entire neighborhoods feels like yesterday to many.

The mayor of Baker, Darnell Waites, said he will never forget everything he and his city went through during that time but looks forward to the progress he hopes to make in the future.

Some of the videos from the flooding in Baker are truly unbelievable, like a shot of an 18-wheeler crossing Groom Road that sent waves crashing in every direction. The two men who shot the video were riding in a boat at the time and braced for impact as the waves from the truck headed towards them.

The video was taken at the height of the flood last year but now Groom Road is perfectly dry. The flood waters are long gone, but Waites says the impact of the unexpected downpour on his city remains.

"It was one of the hardest things I've ever been through as a leader," said Waites.

At the time, Waites was only a month into the job and says nothing could have prepared him or the city for what they faced.

"It was learn as you go. It was stressful because there was nothing in the books that we had over here that talks about floods and it caught us all off guard because we just didn't think that it was going to get this bad," said Waites.

To make matters worse, he says just about everything that could go wrong did. Not only were people taking water in their homes but governmental buildings including city hall were taking water as well.

"The basement was flooding. I had a shelter of people here and water started coming to the door. I had to transfer them to another location," said Waites. "I also had people, police officers, and firemen that their own houses were flooding."

Baker High School and the fire department also among the buildings that took on water. Waites says construction on the fire department is ongoing but the school may take a bit longer.

"What the superintendent says is that maybe the school will probably be back open when the school starts in 2018 and that's what he's working on," Waites added.

The mayor says improvements to drains and more economic development tops his plans for the city's future. He also hopes to have as many community forums like the one held at Redemption Life Fellowship Thursday night, connecting people to resources.

"I try to stay in every meeting to find out what is available so I can help the people of this city," said Waites.

Despite everything the mayor went through-- he says they are better prepared now in case of a future event.

"Definitely, we are better but you know you can't ever prepare 100 percent for something like that," said Waites.

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved.