Louisiana Flooding: Rubble And Relief

We noticed the water line shortly after passing the Hammond exit on I-12.

A thin layer of mud had clung to the grass and trees — 2 feet, 3 feet, 4 feet off the ground — and continued to rise. We would have been underwater.

My friend and I, having some time to spare and some curiosity to motivate, had decided to drive down to Louisiana to volunteer with a local volunteer group called the Cajun Army. Tropical moisture and a low pressure system trapped Louisiana under heavy rainfall for days. Some areas got as much as two feet of rainfall in three days, resulting the deaths of 13 people and damaging as many as 60,000 homes.

image retrieved from: http://www.popsci.com/noaa-captures-extent-louisianas-flooding-in-aerial-images

We arrived at our first dispatch location, armed with two pry bars and a shovel, unsure of what to expect. The entire neighborhood was littered with heaps of mud-coated junk. Large piles of toys, clothes, couches, chairs, drywall, insulation, and floor boards flanked the streets waiting for pick up.

Around 8 feet of water had flooded the home. One morning at around 4 am the family discovered rapidly-rising water pouring in. They found temporary refuge on a neighbor’s porch while the father saved what he could by putting some valuables in the attic — guitars, pictures, a Star Wars collection. He had to swim out of the window to escape as his home was quickly inundated.

We shoveled out the remains of his children’s rooms — DVDs, clothes, a dream-catcher, a boy scout uniform, shoes, Legos, stuffed animals — everything was covered in a thin layer of mud and held the stench of Louisiana river.

Next we began to tear out the drywall and insulation, which fell out easily, weakened by the water. Other helpers shared their own flood stories. One friend had been stranded in the car with his girlfriend who had recently had surgery. After pleading for help on Facebook, an old friend who lived nearby offered them asylum. But soon after the four of them and a 4 month old baby had to trudge through the water again as it had risen over a foot in less than an hour.

Everyone seemed to have their flood story to tell: sharing experiences seems to numb the pain a little, spreading it out so that others feel some of it for you.

For some, when the water came it washed away everything they had. At times, the amount of work left to be done feels overwhelming, but Louisiana has hope. When all seems to be lost, faith in goodness can be restored in the simple act of saying “Let me help you.”

Originally published at www.theodysseyonline.com on August 30, 2016.