Live drone, Facebook feeds reinvent flood coverage - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Live drone, Facebook feeds reinvent flood coverage

A still capture from drone footage over the Old Hammond Hwy. area in Baton Rouge (Source: Atmosphere Aerial) A still capture from drone footage over the Old Hammond Hwy. area in Baton Rouge (Source: Atmosphere Aerial)
Paul Charbonnet and Josh Rogers, co-owners of Atmosphere Aerial (Source: WAFB) Paul Charbonnet and Josh Rogers, co-owners of Atmosphere Aerial (Source: WAFB)
Donald and Barbara Davis watch the video of their rescue alongside daughter Latasha Sanfie (Source: WAFB) Donald and Barbara Davis watch the video of their rescue alongside daughter Latasha Sanfie (Source: WAFB)
The Davis family is helped to safety by Sheriff Sid Gautreaux during the August 2016 flood (Source: EBRSO Facebook) The Davis family is helped to safety by Sheriff Sid Gautreaux during the August 2016 flood (Source: EBRSO Facebook)
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -

With so many cameras in so many places, our view of natural disasters is changing. From the emergency response to the news coverage, drones and live Facebook feeds gave an unprecedented look at the flood of August 2016. First responders used social media to find people who were trapped, while the rest of us watched live drone feeds trying to spot our homes in the devastation.
 
Seeing things from above is critical during an emergency, and two Baton Rouge locals made it happen for thousands of people. Paul Charbonnet and Josh Rogers own Atmosphere Aerial. They pilot drones for all sorts of reasons, but never imagined their cameras would tell the story of the great flood.

“We'd get the drone shot up and anybody who was watching, their face would just drop,” Rogers said. “Just the vastness – I think a lot of people missed the scale of what happened, and we were really able to capture that.”

Dubbed the “Cajun Airforce,” they posted over 50 live videos on Facebook, which were viewed millions of times and shared all around the world. Rogers flew drones for NBC News while Charbonnet captured most of the footage shared on social media. Their shots gave us the first look at dozens of neighborhoods that were not accessible from the ground.

“Literally we received tens of thousands of requests from people wanting to see their homes or neighborhoods,” Rogers said.

The pair also coordinated with first responders to track missing caskets in St. Amant.

“We were flying a grid pattern on the radio with these firefighters trying to corral these caskets,” Rogers recalled.

Even with his own home flooded, Charbonnet said their mission was clear.

“Drones are what we do and what we love, but to be able to see something like that touch hundreds of thousands of people that we don't even know was just amazing,” he said.

While drones soared above, the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office was broadcasting live on the ground. Their videos captured dramatic rescues and took the public to the front lines of the disaster. In one memorable video from Baker, Sheriff Sid Gautreaux waded through floodwater to help the Davis family to safety from their home on Comite Drive.

“It's hard ‘cause I'm trying to hold Mama, hold my teenage daughter, trying to keep an eye on my baby,” Latasha Sanfie remembered while watching the clip.

One year later the memories are still vivid. They're glad to have the footage of their escape, but they had no idea thousands of people watched it happen live on the EBRSO Facebook page.

“We didn't know until I logged into Facebook and I was getting tagged on stuff,” Sanfie said. “I was like, ‘What is this?’ and I clicked and said, ‘Lord, I'm on TV.’”

The Baker family still calls a FEMA trailer home for now. Six feet of water swept away their belongings, but not their spirit.

“I'm just thankful that we've come this far. It's slow, but it's gonna be alright,” Barbara Davis said.

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