The historic Baton Rouge flood waters stopped surging and began to recede on Tuesday. Stuart's parents lost most everything in their house, as did a large percentage of people in south Louisiana. We live in another state and information about what was happening as the flood waters were rising and spreading was sketchy and conflicting. You can read that crazy play-by-play here.
An amazing rescue effort arose from the floods as ordinary people jumped in their boats to save total strangers. As you watch the video below, you can't help but notice the number of pickup trucks with empty boat trailers that lined the interstate. These were guys who spent days on end, using their own personal resources, and risking their lives to save people in need. These are the guys called the Cajun Navy.
We are very grateful to the brave men of the Cajun Navy for they rescued Stuart's parents as they were trapped in their car floating down their flooded street.
Their house was under water for a couple of days. We knew that most of the furniture and personal items would be ruined and needed to be move out of the house. More importantly, the walls, insulation, and flooring needed to come out right away. Mold and fungus can start growing in just 2 or 3 days so it was imperative to get to work right away. The sooner the wet material was out of the house, the sooner the house would have an opportunity to dry out and keep dangerous mold from growing.
His parents couldn't do this work themselves. They couldn't hire anyone because with the vast number of people affected and in need of help that workmen would be hard to find. So Stuart used vacation time from work and we packed up the van to head to Louisiana to do what we could to help his parents and brother gut the house.
As we got near to Baton Rouge, we ran into rain which only got worse the closer we got. How will their homes dry out if it just keeps raining?
As we got closer to Stuart's parents' house, we noticed boats parked along the side of the road. They most likely belonged to people who had used their own boat to escape their home and drove them to this area of higher ground.
This SUV had been washed off the road in the flood waters.
The sign at the entrance to the neighborhood and street sign were knocked over from the force of the water.
Stuart's brother was just able to get to their parents' house the night before and many people were still in shelters and had not returned to start demolishing their homes. However, we could already see a few people starting to pull the damaged items from their homes.
The garage door of the house nest to Stuart's parents' house was destroyed by the flood waters.
As we drove up to his parents' house, Stuart saw the beginning of their pile. It was startling to see.
On the outside of the house, we could still see the water line. It was about 51 inches high!
Our kids have never seen a disaster like this in person so it was hard on them. Everything that had been soaked in the flood was considered hazardous because the flood waters were contaminated with sewage and other biological pollutants. But we all put on gloves and started helping.
The lower half of all four of the windows on the front of the house were broken inward from the force of the water. From there the waters inundated the house, pushing furniture throughout the house and knocking over the refrigerator.
Many things were moved to the carport just to clear them out of the house. Later they would be looked at more closely to see if they were salvageable.
There were a lot of old pictures, precious keepsakes, and other irreplaceable items that were all soaked and piled up in the carport.
I went through the house to take some pictures of the damage. The floors were still wet, muddy, and slippery throughout.
You can clearly see the water line on the living room wall. It was hard to see this room like this. It is the room where the whole family gathers together when we come to visit. We watch movies, play with the kids, or just sit and talk, usually while enjoying a wonderful dessert and a warm cup of coffee.
The kitchen. All of the appliance are ruined. The cookware, dishes, utensils can all be salvaged after some intense sanitation.
Pots still on the stove - now covered with a fine silt of potential biohazard.
There were several of these industrial fans throughout the house to circulate the air in an attempt to dry things out.
The dining room.
The beautiful china cabinet still stands but the wood has swollen and cracked from sitting in the water for so long.
Throughout the house there is a line reminding you of just how high the water rose. It's hard to image what it would have been like to have the house full of water like that. We are just so glad that Stuart's parents got out safely.
The hall to the bedrooms. When Stuart's brother first got into the house the night before, he sent us a picture of heavy living room furniture that the water had pushed all the way down this hallway.
The hall bathroom.
That dirty layerilt is everywhere!
The guest bathroom...and watermark.
The guest bedroom. This is the room we always stay in when we come to visit.
Janet's office. There were lots of great books on those bookshelves. There were many old family photos and yearbooks in here as well that all got soaked but they were kept in hopes of being able to save them. The kids were told to gather up the rest of the books and throw them in the trash pile.
Stuart's parents' bedroom. This was completely redecorated not too long ago.
Ed's office. All of the important things worth saving had been pulled out and the kids were just going around filling wheelbarrows with the remaining stuff on the floor and rolling it all out to the trash pile in the front yard.
Someone found some bottles of wine. Ed said they weren't anything special so we should just throw them all out. Fortunately I noticed that one of the bottles was some Taylor Fladgate port which is good stuff. We told him he should probably keep that. He might want to try a few glasses right now. He looked so tired and worn down.
The pile in the front yard kept growing. It's hard to call it trash when you know what precious memories were scattered all through it.
The carport in the back of the house had a giant tree in the middle of it. It floated in from somewhere during the flood. We didn't have a chainsaw or any way to begin to remove it but it did make it a little more challenging to navigate and use that space for things that we wanted to try to salvage.
I found some neat memories as I looked around the carport of things to attempt to save.
I laid out some family made quilts to dry in hopes that they wouldn't start to mold. They were still floating in biohazard flood water and will need to be professionally dry cleaned but for now the focus was just on damage control and mold prevention.
A picture of Rachel.
They had put the dining room chairs on top of the dining room table before they left the house. But the flood waters rose too high and still soaked the wood to the point of ruin.
The roll top desk full of lots of paper work.
A souvenir piece of pottery from Accolay, France.
Someone's fence panel had floated into their backyard.
It's south Louisiana in August so it was hot and humid. We were all sweating profusely. Stuart's shirt is drenched in this picture.
Old yearbooks and a box of special recipes.
More silt in the kitchen.
Every street had growing piles of trash in their front yards.
See the car on the left that's in the yard facing the street. That was the car that Stuart's parents' were in when they tried to leave the house but they ended up floating down the street. This is where it landed when the waters receded.
They didn't have a basketball goal but this one floated down the street from somewhere.
The veneer fronts of the kitchen drawers were pulling up and rolling up.
Every bowl, bag, and pot had standing icky water in it.
They had some friends of the family come in and help do a lot of demo work in a short amount of time. This is a picture from the living room looking into the work being done in the bedroom.
Stuart taught Rachel how to pull nails from studs.
She went to work and was happy to help.
She and her cousin Jessica made a great team.
Nicholas was a great help at pulling off the sheetrock and insulation then loading up a wheelbarrow and hauling it out to the front yard.
Nicholas said it was hard tearing up his grandparents' home like this but he was such a hard worker. We are very proud of him.
Tearing out the sheet rock in the dining room, behind the fireplace.
Amazingly the crystal in the china cabinet was still standing and unbroken.
The growing collection of items to try to sanitize and salvage. I'm so glad they were able to pull out at least some things.
With no way to cook, Ed went and bought Raisin' Cane's for lunch for everyone.
It was so nice to sit, rest, and refuel our tired bodies.
We are so proud of these kids. They have seen the devastation that a flood can cause and the loss and sadness it can bring to people. I know these memories will be with them forever. However, they are troopers! They have given their time and all of their strength to do what they could to make a difference for at least one home affected, all with a positive "can do" attitude.
More china and special occasion dinner ware items to salvage.
I hated to these giant Tinker Toys in the trash heap but was just too exhausted to consider pulling them out and sanitizing them. They have been played with by my kids and their cousin for 10 years as they built forts, "poo machines", signs for makeshift stores, and of course, swords and guns.
Progress in the living room.
The kids worked together on pulling off the sheetrock in their grandparents' bathroom.
This sweet man drove by each day with his truck bed full of ice cold water for anyone in need. What a blessing he was to the community.
Gutting a house, especially a wet, muddy house, is a very messy job.
We had plenty of safety equipment just in case. Everything was wet though so there wasn't much dust for dust masks and it was too early for mold. But Rachel did look cute in her giant eye protection goggles.
I had started to unload the gross, drippy, gag-inducing contents of the refrigerator but then I was told that the whole thing would be trashed and it could be strapped closed and rolled to the front yard trash pile so there was no need to empty it. Thank goodness!
This trio was one amazing team! They worked so hard for their size and strength. They accomplished an amazing amount of work.
Every street in the area looked like this. It was so heart breaking to see.
Through all the devastation, love and blessing shone through. People were kind and helping each other. Churches drove buses down the street to deliver hot meals for dinner.
Back to work, the pile continues to grow. The beautiful china cabinet was unsalvageable.
This is the car that Ed and Janet had tried to escape in but it ended up floating in the flood waters. When the waters receded it landed across the street and a couple of houses down from them.
It's hard to imagine that Stuart's parents were rescued from the car by being pulled up through these windows by men in a boat. It's just so unbelievable!
The lower spot in the driveway was there before the flood but this time Nicholas found little minnows swimming in it and had to investigate.
That's when he noticed this little frog swimming around in it. It's sad to think of all the wildlife that got displaced or killed in the flood as well.
The front door is off the hinges because it was just in the way of people constantly walking in and out all day, pushing wheelbarrows and carrying out appliances.
At this point the walls throughout the house were almost all torn out down to just the studs. It is still just so shocking to look at.
We finally got the windows boarded up. There isn't anything of value left in the home however we now have lots of expensive fans and tools that need to be protected while we are gone at night.
Now not only the trash piles are growing but so are the numbers of pickup trucks and trailers. What a blessing to have people coming to help others in need.
Now if only it would quit raining every day, maybe things could start to dry out!
The ice cream truck came by offering free ice cream to everyone on the street!
The amounts of little things that we were trying to salvage was growing in the driveway. There was more rain coming and we needed to get things cleaned up and put away in plastic tubs so they would stay safe. Plastic tubs would also make it easier to move things into the storage pod that they were going to rent. Unfortunately every store I went to was already sold out of plastic tubs.
It was hot and we all went through lots of bottled water during the work day. But so was everyone else in town. Bagged ice was impossible to find!
I went to several stores looking for plastic tubs or bagged ice and had finally given up. I was on my way back to the house when I passed Dollar General on Greenwell Springs Road. We have driven by there hundreds of times on our visits here but had never stopped in. I wondered if they might have some plastic tubs. Bingo! I bought up all of their last big tubs AND they had some bagged ice too! What a relief!
Speaking of relief, the American Red Cross came through delivering hot food.
And Smoothie King drove up and down the street handing out free smoothies!
Each day there were little blessings like this.
It was decided that this desk wasn't going to be saved but we needed to check to see if there was anything in the drawers that we needed to keep. Unfortunately the wood had swollen up and the drawers wouldn't open. Nicholas used a pry bar and was eventually able to get them open.
Demolition in the kitchen continued. There would be some plumbing issues with that sink but nothing the guys couldn't handle.
Cabinets were pulled out and trashed.
Janet's car was eventually towed away.
The old brick peninsula in the kitchen was torn out. The brick and mortar was still ok but Janet said to take it out anyway so they could just update the whole kitchen.
The kids signed their names on one of the bare studs in the back of the house.
The kitchen was almost complete. The cabinets and appliances were all removed from the exterior wall. There was a slight problem with closing off the plumbing at the sink but whatever water sprayed out didn't make much difference at this point. I think they had to buy a part to close off the line.
Looking through the kitchen to the family room.
On one of my trips hauling things out to the pile, I stepped this board and this very nail went all the way through the bottom of my boot and into the bottom of my foot. It hurt like crazy. Stuart helped me to bandage it up but I wasn't able to walk very well.
Stuart said that I needed to go to the doctor because the puncture was caused by dirty metal that had been in the biohazard flood waters. The nail was so long that it pushed all of that bacteria deep into my foot and there was no way to clean it out. I hated to have to spend the time and money to go to the doctor but it just wasn't worth taking a chance on letting that bacteria fester.
As we drove to the acute clinic, we saw more and more streets with piles out front.
Everywhere we looked there was devastation and sadness.
Family pictures and keepsakes were ruined. Irreplaceable precious items, gone.
Things people have worked hard for were just thrown out on the trash piles.
I wasn't able to walk on my foot because of the nail wound so Rachel and I spent some time with my parents while Stuart and Nicholas continued to work on the house.
We are very grateful to so many of our personal friends who have sent money or gift cards to Stuart's parents to help them rebuild. Stuart set up a GoFundMe account and was able to raise more money to help them out. It was such a blessing that so many people reached out to help this couple that they didn't even know. Thank you!
This was a devastating flood and it has affected a large part of my hometown. But Baton Rouge and its people are strong and they will recover.