Anniversary of May 1995 torrential rains

Published 7:00 am Saturday, May 11, 2019

By Skip Rigney

It was Monday, May 8, 1995. On the tarmac at New Orleans International Airport, I settled into a coach seat in a jet about to fly me to Washington on a business trip. As I had done many times before when I traveled for my job as a Navy oceanographer, that morning I had driven my old Nissan Sentra hatchback from my Picayune home to the Park-and-Fly lot across Airline Highway from the airport.

Two evenings later, Wednesday, May 10, 1995, I turned on the television in my hotel room. As I flipped through some work papers, I was vaguely aware of CNN’s anchor person droning on about various international and national events. The mention of “Slidell, Louisiana” jerked my attention toward the television screen. Why in the world would Slidell be mentioned in the national news?

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According to the CNN anchorperson, torrential rains Monday night through Wednesday morning, May 8-10, had caused widespread flooding across southeast Louisiana and southern Mississippi. I called my wife in Picayune. She said that, yes, the rains had been tremendous. However, thankfully, our property isn’t susceptible to flooding, and at that time she hadn’t heard from anyone who had been directly affected.

Keep in mind, that in 1995, the internet was in its infancy.

The project “Internet Live Stats” says that today there are over 1.5 billion websites accessible on the internet. Of course, that includes thousands of news and weather websites, not to mention social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In 1995 there were only 23,500 websites in the whole world.

So, with no way of checking from afar any news outlets in our local area, and with all quiet on the home front, I blissfully went back to work.

On Friday I flew back to New Orleans. The temperature when I left Washington had been in the 60s, but as usual when stepping off the plane into the jetway in New Orleans, I was immersed in a different realm of heat and humidity. High temperatures on both Tuesday and Thursday at the airport had reached 88 degrees, a fact that I would soon realize had unfortunate consequences.

The Park-and-Fly bus door opened in front of my beige Nissan Sentra. No visible sign prepared me for the olfactory experience that awaited me. When I opened the car door, the smell almost knocked me down. The carpet was soaked and had been baking in my car for 72 hours. Over 12 inches of rain had fallen Monday night at the airport leading to over a foot of water in the parking lot.

Even with the all the windows down, and a heavy right foot, the stench of the moldy carpet made the drive to Picayune seem much longer than an hour.

The May 8-10, 1995, torrential rains are listed as one of the top ten weather events of the 20th century to affect south Mississippi and southeast Louisiana by the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Slidell, According to the NWS’s analysis of the event, the heaviest rains were in our local area. These totals are in inches: Picayune 21.2, Ceasar 24.0 (gauge overflowed), Slidell 23.9, Necaise in Hancock County 27.5 inches.