I’ve had writer’s block for over a week. My texts–and even person-to-person chats–have been string-of-consciousness nonsense to some degree, a lot like Jabberwocky but with inversely proportional importance to the literary canon. My head may be filled with scrambled eggs instead of brain stuff, but let’s give this blogging thing a shot! I write about SharePoint, but since I’m an over-communicator with few boundaries and make my own damn rules, today I’m deviating. And maybe getting all of this out now will help me feel like it’s OK to talk about work again soon.
Rain started in Baton Rouge Thursday night, August 11. My six-year-old kept us up all night with her fear of thunder. I tried to reassure her that it was just a storm, we’d be fine, no big deal. In retrospect, it seems she may be a Matrix-esque oracle. Most schools were canceled Friday because of flooding on the roads as parents were annoyed about finding last-minute childcare arrangements on a standard workday. I continued to make plans to host friends on Saturday for a barbecue. A BARBECUE. I was in a privileged bubble of oblivion and apparently do not pay enough attention to the Weather Channel.
Friday evening, August 12, my parents worried about my grandparents’ house taking in water, as they live a block off the Amite River. We figured we’d get over there early Saturday morning (7AM was the plan!) and move out as much as we could before the rain got serious.
Well, don’t ever give Mother Nature the benefit of the doubt. My grandparents woke up at 4AM Saturday morning (August 13) with water rushing into their house. My grandma said she felt like she was at the beach, but the waves were in her own backyard, and the shore was her kitchen. They were able to grab very few personal effects and left with my folks. In Baton Rouge, we watched the news in horror as we learned we could not get out to our family in Denham Springs because the interstate and surface streets were flooded. The situation intensified through the day Saturday out in the suburbs and the north part of Baton Rouge, but for homeowners elsewhere in the city, it felt like a normal, if drizzly, day.
And then, a few hours later, neighborhoods in the middle of the Baton Rouge started to flood. The canals and ditches that create a web of drainage around our city betrayed their duty, backing up from the flooding Amite and Comite Rivers. Seven miles away from us, people were rescued by friendly boat owners, fire fighters, and the Army National Guard. My grandparents, who were sheltering with my parents at their house, were suddenly on an island, unable to get my unresponsive grandpa to the hospital (he was later air lifted by helicopter and is OK now). We walked around cautiously, eyeballing the lake, the once lovely centerpiece of our neighborhood, now an ominous threat. The lake took in water from the overflowing canal and then gushed it into the streets relentlessly.
On Sunday, August 14, my husband and I awoke to a half-flooded street. Three houses at the end were taking in water, and measuring sticks indicated the water was rising “an inch or so” every hour, as reported by our engineer neighbor. At 1PM, we lost power. We did not want to become a rescue mission and knew we would be trapped in our neighborhood soon, with impassable roads. It was time to evacuate. I put on my rain boots and walked in front of our family SUV so that we could judge the depth of the fetid water and silt. We made it out and drove straight to Alabama.
Every single person I know in Louisiana has a story like this, though most do not end with a feeling of relief upon return to an unflooded home.
The devastation in my hometown and its suburbs is unlike anything I could imagine.
In crisis, people show you who they really are. There are scammers and con artists out there, offering to treat swamp-rotted wood floors for the price of an insurance pay-out less the deductible and contractors who tell you they will estimate the job high but charge low. Mostly, however, there are the people who do whatever it takes to help friends and strangers and, in my case, their strange friends.
Sunday, August 21, a crew of 10** came out to my grandparents’ house to pull it apart. Six feet of water flooded the house and sat for 48 hours. There are too many homes to evaluate and condemn before mold sets in, so we had to demo though the house may ultimately be bulldozed. Among these hard-working folks were Marissa and Cody of Rogue. My business partners go full-out beast-level in everything they do–from knocking out a SharePoint app to ripping out walls, floors, and ceilings for my grandparents. Here’s us in the room where my family opened Christmas gifts and passed around plates of birthday cake and ice cream for the last 20 years. It looks a lot different now.
And we don’t have quite the same polish as in our recent head shots, eh? #REALLIFE
Driving around and seeing everyone’s lives on the side of the road makes us all feel sick. The strain on resources (too many houses, but not enough hands, not enough money, not enough time) is taking its toll on our community. Everyone has nervous energy, anxiety through the roof, and married people may or may not be snapping each other’s heads off for the slightest of infractions. Even so, teamwork is a real thing, not just some noun in a list of corporate values. And though this flood sucks an epic amount of suck, I am so proud of the teams putting lives back together as we rip houses apart.
Go Team! And Go Rogue!
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**Shout out to: Ashley* and Chris, Chris S., Mike C., Calvin, Randy, Darrin, Michael, Marissa, Cody.
*I owe you a tetanus shot for the nail in your foot.