Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Year Later....

I would love to tell you that after the flood water completely receded that life got back to normal. And I guess in a way it did. It became the new normal. Everyone now speaks in "before the flood..." and "after/since the flood...". It's become a defining time in our community's timeline.
E dealt with PTSD for several weeks after the flood and wouldn't let me or Rob out of his sight. He cried every time we turned down the road where Rob's truck flooded. Our insurance company was more than fair in their settlement for Rob's truck. He was able to use the money to buy a "new" truck. Our neighbors' "few days" stay lasted two months. Their house is still not completely finished but it's getting there. I ended up going back to work 5 weeks after the flood and the school year was altered to make up for lost time. We qualified for D-SNAP (a disaster food assistance program) and our church was inundated with donations so we never went without. While many struggled because they had lost so much, the Lord graciously blessed us so we were able to donate money, furniture, plastic tubs, food, mold spray and ~most importantly~ our time to help so many in need.

A year later the community is still in repair. I read somewhere that, after a natural disaster of the flood's magnitude, it takes up to two years to fully recover. I believe it. We have gotten used to not having all the conveniences we previously had. Within the past year, businesses have closed their doors and walked away completely (Baskin-Robbins, Pretend Play, Popeyes). Other businesses took months to repair and reopen their business (Starbucks, Walmart, Big Mikes). Some are still abandoned and yet to be determined whether they will reopen (Wendy's, Subway). And yet some businesses have been torn down and new ones are taking the place of the old business (Western Store, Shell gas station, Winn Dixie). The same can be said about homeowners. FEMA trailers can be seen in almost every neighborhood. Debris piles still sit, waiting to be picked up. Sadly, the flood left a lot of trash behind that has yet to be picked up.
But, after seeing how strong the community came together (Cajun Navy, anyone??) I have no doubt that it will be rebuilt better than ever. It may take more time, but I am excited for what the future holds for DS! It's been a long year but it's also been a year of growth and strength. One that has made me appreciate a place I barely liked for the first two years here. And I won't forget to give God the glory for it all!
Here are pictures that were taken this past weekend so they are about as recent as you can get:

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Great Flood of 2016 Finale

The water had receded enough so Rob used my car to get to work, with the intent that I would come pick it up later to run errands. I guess in the back of my mind I still couldn't grasp all that had taken place the past 4 days. Our neighbor had a truck similar to Rob's so he said he would take me to get my car. Then he naively thought he could go get plastic tubs to store their belongings. (More about that on tomorrow's blog.)
As soon as we got to the main road, outside of our subdivision, I saw a car stranded in the middle of the road where it had unsuccessfully attempted to drive through a flooded roadway. When we got to the freeway, I thought "This isn't too bad." There weren't stranded cars and, other than a lack of vehicles on the road, it looked like a normal Tuesday morning. But it wasn't.
What should have been a 10 minute drive to Rob's office took close to 2 hours. Roads were closed. Police were out in full force, blocking roads that were unsafe, protecting businesses from looters. In the two hours it took to get to our destination I saw what I imagine the Apocolypse to look like. As silly as this may seem, one of my major regrets during that horrific weekend was not taking more pictures. I wish I would have grabbed my camera before leaving the house to document what I saw.
My neighbor and I had to take surface roads to get to my car once we took the freeway exit. I saw homes with garages that were a mangled mess due to how fast the water was flowing. I saw cars stalled out in the middle of the road. I saw brown residue on the side of houses from the flood waters. I saw a military type vehicle on its side in a ditch. The closer we got to my car (which was at the heart of our town) the more devastation I saw. I can't begin to tell you how many boats were stranded on lawns, tied to lampposts, upside down. Store front windows were shattered from the force of the water. And then something I doubt I will forget....A firetruck that looked like it had been completely submerged. Its hoses unraveled and lying on the ground, lifeless. To me, firemen are invincible so to see that stranded fire truck was what it took to solidify the devastation of it all.
The scene brought me to tears. My neighbor and I drove in silence as we took it all in. By the time we finally got to my car I was a basketcase. I sat in my car and let all that had taken place since Thursday night sink in. I cried for friends who had lost all their Earthly belongings. I cried for friends who had to figure out where they would live while they rebuilt their life. I cried for our beautiful church that was no longer beautiful. I cried for my job as I had received a text from my boss, stating that he didn't know if we had our jobs due to our school flooding. I cried for the uncertainty of the future. I also took the time to thank the Lord from sparing us from flooding. I thanked Him for His protection over us. I thanked Him that He used us to be a blessing to others. I just sat in my car for what seemed like hours, not wanting to go back out on the roads, not wanting to see the devastation.
But I did. I went to the one local Walmart that was open. I waited in line outside the store while only a few people were let in at a time. When I got in the store, I breathed a sigh of relief, finally seeing something that looked normal.
The flood was an event that will stay in people's minds for years to come. People who flooded will probably never forget. I would like to say that, a year later, things are back to the way they were pre- flood but you'll have to read tomorrow's blog to see what has taken place in this past year here in our little parish. Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Great Flood of 2016 (Part V)

....but I didn't take in the reality that, after the water receded, there was the aftermath to deal with. I woke up the next morning feeling claustrophobic. Not because we were now a "family" of 10 in a 1700 sq ft home (6 of whom were under 8 years old). But because I felt trapped. To look out the window, at the sun shining, it looked like a normal Southern day. Kids were out playing, the roads were dry. But what the naked eye didn't show were the streets out on the main roads that were still flooded. You couldn't see the washed out parts of the road. You couldn't see the police blocking roads, not letting residents get by. You couldn't look out your window to see the inside of your neighbor's house, to see the devastation that took place 24 hours ago.
Our neighbors (along with Rob) got started on clearing out the flooded debris and gutting the house immediately. If I went over and saw it before the work started, I don't remember it. I did go in at some point during the day and saw sheetrock pulled halfway up the wall. Appliances sitting out in the driveway. Furniture all over and fans going, trying to keep the mold at bay.
That morning I also saw the devastation on a broader scope. You see I would've given just about anything for a Coke at that point. None of the neighbors had any (or so they said). But one of our neighbors graciously let us use his Hummer to get to the store. I volunteered to go because I needed some alone time, some time to process what had happened and our new norm. I got out of the subdivision without a problem and headed down the road to what looked like a ghost town. Stores were shut down. All stores. Even the ones that hadn't flooded. So, after driving a couple miles, I turned around and went back toward Walmart because I had heard it hadn't flooded.
That's when I came across the washed out roads. I was told it was dangerous to cross the road I needed to go across and, in hindsight, it was stupid of me to do it. But I wanted to see that some places had survived, that some stores were open. So I drove down the road with caution and, PTL, I made it safely to the main intersection. Only to be turned around by a police officer. I was near tears. All I wanted was some normalcy. I went back home, dejected.
Later that day Rob was able to get to Walmart in our neighbor's Hummer. Only 5 people were allowed in at a time so it took him forever but, hallelujah, he came home with Coke! I kind of got a superficial glimpse of how Noah must have felt when the bird came back with an olive branch. To know that the water had receded and that at least some of civilization existed. To know we could get groceries, to drive on the main roads.
Rob and I took advantage of our friends living with us to go look at Rob's truck that night. Surprisingly, it started but man, oh man, did it stink. I about gagged when we first opened the door of the cab. That flood water stink is something you don't easily forget! While there, we stopped by the church and our pastor was there surveying the damage. Our church, despite the sandbags, had taken on 3-4 feet of water. Dead fish were on the carpet. Pews were all askew. A brown water line graced the walls and furniture, showing just how much water had come in. And I guess, even though I was looking at it, the magnitude of this natural disaster still didn't set in. I had been living in a bubble and didn't want to accept the reality. It wasn't until the next day that I had no choice but for it to sink in....

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Great Flood of 2016 (Part IV)

....we were awakened by a loud knock at the door. We always lock our doors but for some reason we hadn't locked the front door that night. So, as we went to see who was at the door our neighbor was sticking his head into the entryway, trying to wake us up. He told us that his house was already starting to get water and it was moving fast. Rob and I started working on adrenaline, helping neighbors and putting stuff up high that wouldn't get damaged if we got water. Instead of putting furniture and other expensive items up high we put toys and kitchenware on top of counters. We put photo albums as high as we could possibly reach. At some point, P woke up and helped us despite it being the middle of the night. We were down to one vehicle so Rob got his boat close to my little SUV in case we had to go anywhere by boat. He took our portable safe to a neighbor's where she could put it on the 2nd story of her house so our important documents would stay dry. And then we waited. And watched as water steadily moved from the road up into our yard. I prayed. I called my mom and asked their church to pray.
At some point our neighbors got more water in their house and it wasn't safe for them to stay there. So they moved in next door, to our neighbors to the immediate right of our house. At some point water started creeping into that house and so our neighbors came to stay with us for a "few days". At some point I gave up hope, knowing that if our next door neighbor got water we would too. It was just a matter of time. At some point we realized that I hadn't stocked up on groceries and that we were out of Coke. At some point the National Guard came by in the biggest tank type vehicle I have ever seen up close and asked if we needed to be rescued. At some point the rain stopped only to start up again a few minutes later, bringing even more anxiety.
That day runs together in my mind. I remember little snippets of it. A neighbor saying he killed a snake that was swimming in the water by his house. The helicopters that kept flying over. The make-shift yardstick that we put in the front yard that measured how many inches we were at. Our yellow lab that kept having to use the bathroom. (I thought his pee may put the water over the edge of our threshold.) The kids playing in Rob's boat because they needed to get out of the house for a few minutes, to get some fresh air. Checking my weather app and just watching the yellow and orange and red swirling around my screen, showing no end in sight. The adults wading out front in their rainboots to check on conditions and to check in with neighbors. AT&T going out, meaning we lost internet and our neighbors lost phone service. Trying not to let my tears be seen while I did my best to keep it together for our neighbors and the kids.
Late in the day the rain finally came to an end. Over two feet of water fell. Over 7.1 TRILLION gallons of water filled the waterways, roadways, houses and buildings. We put our furniture back in place and discovered that we had only received about a square foot of water in the master bedroom. For the first time since Friday I was able to breathe. I knew the worst was behind us. Or so I thought....

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Great Flood of 2016 (Part III)

....being bored, antsy, confined, anxious. I remember all these feelings of that day. We sat in the house because the only vehicle we owned that could get us through the flood waters on the main street outside of our subdivision had been submerged under water the day before. It was all so surreal. We watched the news and I looked at FB religiously, praying for any friends who posted they were getting flooded. The day dragged on. In hindsight, I wish I would've slept a lot more that day because shortly after we fell asleep that night....

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Great Flood of 2016 (Part II)

.....the severity of all the rain the night before. I am not good at remembering significant dates, with the exception of a few important family events. But I doubt I will forget August 11-14, 2016 any time soon. It was a three day period of time that stretched me in ways I never knew I could be stretched. It also showed me that God is ultimately the one in control. And, last but certainly not least, it showed me the power of prayer.

My phone started blowing up before 6am, texts stating that all LP schools were cancelled. I selfishly and naïvely thought, "This is great! We get a day off the first week of school and pretty soon the sun will be out. The boys and I will have a long weekend of fun." We got up and they started building forts while I turned on the news. Quickly I realized that we probably weren't in for a very fun day in the sun. News coverage was already showing homes flooded, water rising quickly because of saturated grounds from the previous week's rainfall.
Fast forward an hour or two and I got a text, stating that one of my co-workers was starting to flood. She is a single mom and didn't know what to do or where to take her 3 children. About that time Rob got home and wanted to help. For the next 9 hours of our lives, we saw devastation, team work, the power of prayer and love. We (i.e. Rob and a team of guys from the church. A friend and I stayed with the children in the vehicles, not wanting to be separated from our husbands) went to three homes and our church to sandbag. I wasn't prepared for the long day. I didn't bring a change of clothes, nor did I bring snacks for the boys. Not once did they complain. I think they understood, in their young age, the severity and magnitude of what was going on around them. At one point they needed to use the restroom and I realized that they hadn't eaten anything since breakfast, a rarity for them. My friend and I drove to a local grocery store to use their restrooms. I remember being shocked when I walked in, seeing all the empty shelves. We were told their bathrooms had stopped up and weren't available. So we went down the street to the Dollar General where my friend bought a change of clothes and we bought enough junk food to fill the kids' bellies until we could eat again. Little did I know that our long day was about to get even longer and the boys wouldn't eat again until our last stop....our church.
We were at our last stop, my boss's house. The guys took a small boat filled with sandbags to his house. They had gotten back to the truck and all I could think about was a hot shower and the gumbo that I had left out on the counter to thaw. The parish had set a curfew and we were going to use that as our excuse to get home. But then our pastor texted, asking if we could get him to the church because he didn't know who else to contact. How do you say no to that? So we went.
By the time we got home at 9:30 that night, August 12th, I was mentally exhausted, in tears, and bone chilling cold. I had changed clothes 3 times to no avail. (Thanks to my husband, who graciously let me use his change of clothes and wore the same sopping wet ones all day.) Rob's truck had flooded at our last stop and I didn't know what the immediate future held. After warming up the gumbo, we washed off the flood grime and crawled into bed. I don't remember if I slept well that night but I do remember the next day....

Picture compilation of the flood and its aftermath 

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Great Flood of 2016

One year ago today- August 11, 2016- I was getting ready to head out the door for Bible Study. I told Rob I didn't feel like going with the weather so nasty outside. At Bible Study we made several comments about how hard it was raining. On the way home, I hydroplaned and by the time I walked in the front door of our rental house I was drenched. I commented to Rob, when we crawled into bed, that I had a feeling the FB weather forecaster was right, that this was going to be a bad storm. Little did we know.....