Resilient is the word I think best describes the people of Louisiana. You have to be here. Just over a decade ago the gulf coast region was slammed by Hurricane Katrina, a category 5 hurricane with max wind speeds of 174 miles per hour, causing over 100 billion dollars in damage, and contributing to the deaths of nearly 2-thousand people. Then in 2010, gulf coast residents endured the worst oil spill in U.S. history and clean-up efforts took years to get the area back to normal again. Now, the residents are dealing with the country’s worst natural disaster in over 3 years since Sandy made landfall in the Northeastern part of the U.S.
Historic floods ravaged areas around Baton Rouge, La. killing 13 people and damaging at least 40-thousand homes. Flooding began August 12th and continued for multiple days causing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes. I recently traveled to the devastated area. The clean-up effort is still underway and the people here can still use a lot of help.
As I traveled through communities like Denham Springs, Livingston and Albany, I saw the roads lined with piles of people’s possessions. Water rushed into many of these homes destroying everything. While many people are lucky to still be alive in some cases…it’s heart breaking to see their memories and hard work sitting on their front lawns ready to be scooped up and hauled away by FEMA.
Their homes are unlivable; just a shell. Many are living with friends, in shelters, and at hotels. Some of these people didn’t have flood insurance because flooding just isn’t typical in this area. No one here really expected it to ever happen. I’ve heard people refer to it as the 500 year flood. It’s going to take a while to restore a sense of normalcy here. From what I read and the people I talked with, able body people are needed here to help with the clean-up so I decided to make my way south to do my best to help some of the people in need in Louisiana.
I spent time with a couple living north of Albany, LA, Joanne and Roy Hobbs. The couple in their 60s was jarred awake at 2am on August 12th by a wall of water washing through their home. They were forced out through a rushing river of water to their neighbors across the street who owned a home with a second story. They stayed there until the National Guard came to rescue them hours later.
Once the water receded they came back to their home to find everything they owned damaged by the flood waters. Even the walls had to be torn down.
I spent two days working with the Hobbs to transport their damaged belongings to the curb to be picked up and disposed of. In the blazing Louisiana heat and humidity we hustled to move furniture, damp dry wall, carpet, electronics and pretty much everything this family had worked so hard to build and experience. What’s even more heart-breaking is Roy lost his home and possessions during Hurricane Katrina. He moved away from typical flood zones because he didn’t want to have to deal with disasters like that again. Unfortunately, he is now too familiar and rebuilding once again. I guess it is tough to predict a flood like this.
It was a good feeling knowing I helped this family and was able to get all of their stuff moved out of their front yard. They said it was the first time in a couple weeks their home actually looked like a home again from the outside and not a junk yard.
After spending time with the Hobbs family, I moved to one of the areas most severely damaged by the flood, Denham Springs, LA. Driving through the area it was tough to find a home not impacted by the flooding. Here I met with an organization “Operation Blessing” a disaster relief service helping to prepare meals for people in the community who are struggling after losing everything in the floods. I helped cook and clean for about 5 hours and there was a constant flow of people coming through looking for a meal to get them through the rebuilding process and simply to the next day. It was rewarding working with a variety of volunteers from around the country from Texas to Michigan traveling to Louisiana to help. It goes to show how many good people are out there.
It was tough seeing the destruction and people’s lives turned upside down but I am thankful I had the opportunity to help some really great people in Louisiana. The clean-up and rebuilding will take months and years to complete but the people here as always will bounce back with love, positive spirits and hard work.
Keith did a really good job of helping people, when there homes are destroyed in the flood of Louisiana.