The scale of the recent flooding in Louisiana is truly shocking.

According to CNN, more than 60,000 homes in southern part of the state were damaged by the massive flooding, which was trigged not by a destructive hurricane, but by a rainstorm of epic proportions.

Hard to imagine just how epic, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that more than 2½ feet of rain pummeled parts of Livingston Parish, one of the counties adjacent to the state’s capital of Baton Rouge, in just one day on Aug. 9.

And that wasn’t even the worst of it.

A few facts put the disaster into sharp relief:

  • About 6.9 trillion gallons of rain pummeled the state during the week of August 8 to 14, enough to fill more than 10.4 million Olympic-size swimming pools.
  • The town of Watson in the southern part of the state was hit with an incredible 31.39 inches of rain in just 15 hours between 6 am and 9 pm on Aug. 13.
  • Members of the Coast Guard, the National Guard and emergency responders had to rescue more than 20,000 people whose homes were completely flooded.
  • So far, more than 106,000 people have registered with FEMA for assistance with temporary rental help, home repairs and other disaster-related needs.

No one knows yet how much the recovery effort will eventually cost, but already some estimates are putting the final total up there with Superstorm Sandy in the category of multi-billions.

The devastation is so bad that the state’s Lieutenant Gov. Billy Nungesser is urging Americans to log onto the website VolunteerLouisiana.gov and sign up to help gut homes and assist with repairs. The site has also been upgraded to accept donations, which Nungesser said are urgently needed.

A big rig to the rescue

Much of the country watched the disaster unfold on television, but some folks in the meat industry decided to step up and help out the flood victim — in a big way.

One of whom was Chicago chef Bubba Scott.

According to WGNO, Scott, the proprietor of Chicago’s Uncle Bub’s BBQ, joined Chef Amy Sims, founder of the iconic New Orleans restaurant Langlois, other local chefs and officials of the Second Harvest Food Bank a week ago in Elwood, La., just outside New Orleans. Their mission: To cook up 3,000 pounds of chicken and pork using Uncle Bub’s tractor-trailer-sized, mobile BBQ pit that cooks up a half ton of meat at a time.

Local chefs and restaurant team members from a number of Louisiana restaurants pitched in with the task of prepping the meats, preparing sides and sauces, and bagging, boxing and organizing the thousands of meals to be delivered to families in the flood-affected areas.

Which is practically half the state.

The project also involved the staff and volunteers from many other well-known restaurants, including Palace Café, Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, Bourbon House, Tableau Restaurant, Cavan, Sylvain, Barrel Proof, Meauxbar, Patois, Taceaux Loceaux, Kenton’s Restaurant, Marriott Lakeway, Central City BBQ and Killer Poboys.

Another group of participants came from the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans. The Goldring Center is a unique institution that seeks to better prepare future physicians to heal patients and communities with food. They even offer a Certified Culinary Medicine Specialist designation that identifies clinicians who work to incorporate healthy eating into their patients’ diets with a knowledge of nutrition and culinary techniques and an awareness of real-world budgets and time constraints.

The menus the center recommends are, predictably for New Orleans, big on fish and shrimp, lots of chicken prepared in classic as well as Cajun styles, and a number of beef items, like flank steak and meatloaf.

Here’s the thing: For all the talk about how vegetarianism is sweeping the country, I sure didn’t hear about a big group of vegan restaurants getting together to prepare and distribute thousands of pounds of food for the victims of Louisiana’s latest disaster.

And if they did, I’m not so sure the good folks of southern Louisiana would be all that eager to dig into a meal of tofu “barbecue,” black bean gumbo and surimi “shrimp” jambalaya.  

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.