You can almost count on them, usually within days following a disaster, especially in the South - the "signs" emerge. Each comes to mean something to a community, whether you agree or disagree with the message. Some of the signs even become community landmarks over time.
Louisiana knows a thing or two about disaster-inspired signs. After all, the state has had its fair share of recent disasters between Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the BP oil spill and now, record flooding along the Mississippi River. In the past six years, Louisiana has turned the making of signs to an art.
Such signs could be seen Monday in Louisiana's low-lying Atchafalaya River basin, which the Army Corps of Engineers was intentionally flooding to spare more-populated areas such as Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
"Hope you appreciate this Baton Rouge. You're welcome," read one sign posted outside a home in the path of the Atchafalaya River floodwater.
The Corps had opened some gates of Morganza Spillway, diverting water from the Mississippi to the Atchafalaya basin. Property belonging to about 2,500 people in the spillway’s path face certain flooding, the state’s governor has said, and up to 22,500 other people will either experience flooding or have to depend on newly built and enhanced levees to protect their property.
Sometimes these signs are foreboding or signal anguish within a family or community.
"My slice of heaven force-flooded straight to hell. God help us," read another sign, posted in front of a still-unflooded home near Butte La Rose, Louisiana, along the Atchafalaya basin.
Others are meant to be threatening reminders to anyone with ill intent while the owners are away. Sometimes, those are often the funniest ones. Many others are thought-provoking and even poignant, and even more come laced with indelible Louisiana humor and sarcasm.
To simply interpret the signs as casual art or entertainment, however, is to entirely miss the point. They are funny, to be sure. But the truth is, I think they're more of a means of coping – everyone in their own way – with the misfortune or destruction.
The basin floodways along the Atchafalaya River have now become the newest sign yard, and I, for one, have already laughed at a few and thought more intently about several others as I passed by. It's pretty obvious to me that residents along these banks already accepted their latest round in misfortune and have begun coping in the only way they know how. Both, signs of resilience.