Great Flood is the Stupid Flood of 2016!
People have called the flood in 2016 in Louisiana the “Great Flood of 2016.” I refuse to refer to the flood as “great!” I understand the concept of it being a thousand year flood but seriously think of it and refer to it as the Stupid Flood of 2016. It was a nightmare and continues to be for some people in our area.
We live near Baton Rouge, the capital city in Louisiana. In August of 2016, we had several days of heavy rains from a system that resembled a tropical depression circling over us, amounting to 20-30 inches of rainfall in several communities bordering each other, which is not new to us. Flash flooding is somewhat usual but subsides quickly. Poor drainage is a big problem in Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas. Some homes and businesses flooded during the flash flooding on Friday. However, this was not the end. All of the rivers, creeks, bayous, and ditches filled quickly. The water had nowhere to drain.
My Brother Was Missing
My story doesn’t start there. It begins with a text message I received from my cousin earlier in the week around 7:00 a.m. She asked if I had seen a post on Facebook made by my brother’s wife, that he was missing. She last talked to him the night before when he was on his way home from a business trip. They lived in Florida.
He had been in Destin, Florida and was supposed to have driven to Tampa the night before and the rest of the way the next morning. The wife contacted the police. So when the rain began, I was unconcerned.
Just a Little Rain
I spent a couple of days communicating with his daughters, his wife, and other family members as well as the investigator that was looking for him. We had not spoken in many months. Michael and I, like many siblings, fought a lot over the years. We had a big fight months before over a money issue. Through the years, no matter how big the fight, we always made up eventually. So, I expected him to show up unannounced in Baton Rouge, and everything would be fine (after some shouting).
The investigator asked if he would have committed suicide. I said “No way. My brother thinks too highly of himself to do that.” But based on his behavior the night he was to have been headed home, the investigator thought differently. A friend helped me by creating a Facebook page to rally support and help in Florida to find Michael. That page helped me get in touch with various people in Florida that contributed valuable information that I hoped would bring him home.
The Flash Flooding Hit
I had planned to drive to Florida (with my nieces) on Friday to search for him. But early that morning, my husband woke me in hysterics because our entire yard and driveway flooded. The water subsided eventually, but the fear of flooding kept me home. We were able to get vehicles and our camper out before they flooded and get the camper safely to the dealership where we had warranty service scheduled that very morning. Our original appointment had been the weekend before but we went camping with family and changed it. Isn’t it funny how God works things out in our favor?
We took shifts to watch the creek behind our house Friday night for fear of flooding. By 7:00 a.m., the water in the creek started flowing backward from the river nearby. My husband woke me to tell me the house would flood soon. We started putting things higher in the house, furniture on cement blocks, hoping to save it from the inches of river water we thought we would get in the house.
Our mortgage company did not require us to carry flood insurance on our home since the elevation was higher than flood stage. However, we decided to update the house, and the bank required flood insurance for that line of credit. So we had a small policy. My husband’s statement during that time was “If we flood, the entire city will have to be under water.” Well, the city flooded.
The Water Was the Least of My Worries
Within minutes of knowing we would flood, my phone rang. It was my niece telling me they had found my brother. He had committed suicide. My heart felt like it shattered into a thousand pieces. So many questions ran through my head so quickly. It was as if everything was happening in slow motion but made no sense. I had only minutes to deal with my emotions, call other family members with the news, and get the few things we could salvage in the bateau to get us to our vehicles. At this point, part of our home was already taking on water.
They had planned a mass search Saturday morning, and they knew nothing about the police finding him. My phone was ringing and private messages were coming across every few minutes. I could not talk to everyone, so I made a post saying that the police found him. It is all I could do at that point. I had the friend that helped with the site take it down for me. The page is now a Memorial page. It has been somewhat therapeutic for me.
God Sent Two Angels in Human Form
The water was rising quickly. Collins (husband) had to turn off the main breaker to the house since the water was at the level of the outlets and we were worried about being electrocuted. Paul (our youngest son) didn’t want to leave the big dogs for fear they would try to follow us and drown. So he kept them on the porch while Collins brought me to the truck on the highway about 100 yards away. Leaving him on that porch was one of the hardest things we had ever done.
As we got close to the truck and the water was shallow, my husband was trying to maneuver the boat closer so I could get out. A complete stranger jumped into the water to help him move the boat. He went back with my husband to get Paul and the big dogs. As I put the little dogs and stuff I had in the truck, I climbed in and just cried. After a few minutes, I got out and the guy’s wife realized how upset I was and just hugged me. She told me, “God’s got this!” I protested since I was getting her wet. She didn’t care. Our angel couple was Thomas and Johnnie. I truly believe God placed them there to minister to our needs.
Thomas saved Collins from drowning when his boots filled up with water. It took both guys to get the motorboat out of the shed. With their help, we made a few trips back and forth by boat to get more things out of the house. Before the water receded, we had seven or more feet on the property. We lost everything except the items we got out Saturday.
Thomas and Johnnie took the bateau and one paddle and helped to rescue ten other families from the flood waters on Saturday and Sunday.
Widespread Devastation was an Understatement
The system that caused the rain was like a hurricane without the wind and stayed over us for days. It dumped an insane amount of rain over several cities, towns, and villages. If you live in an area that gets snow, I heard a weatherman compare the amount of rainfall to 20-25 foot of snowfall. The devastation caused by this flood was so widespread that 75-95% of the homes and businesses in several communities were damaged. People in our community showed up. Southern hospitality is a real thing. Residents spent hours in the rain and flood waters helping their neighbors. They put aside the horror and heartbreak of the flood and helped others. We had been rocked with racial conflict and a police shooting just before the flood and were still reeling with protests, strife, and much stress. Stories of personal rescues and people out in their boats abounded. It helped to heal our communities.
You can read more about this flood by going to these websites.
- YouTube video from a newspaper out of New Orleans – https://youtu.be/y3FqAJUs1s8
- CNN Article – https://www.cnn.com/2016/08/18/us/louisiana-flooding/index.html
- Facebook Group with LOTS of information and pictures https://www.facebook.com/groups/152880778482582/photos/</li
Two Years Later
No one can truly prepare for a flood of this magnitude. Our community was rocked. It has been almost two years and there are people still not in their homes. Sherry & Brian Mack, whose house flooded twice in 2016, just watched their home being torn down so they can rebuild.
So many churches and ministries in the area and all over the country stepped up to help people with supplies, food, shelter, gutting and mucking out houses, rebuilding, and continue to do those things today. There are still so many needs! We were blessed to be able to buy a new home and not have to rebuild. But you will see many of our projects on this blog as we change things in our home.
Suicide Is Not An Answer
My brother’s suicide still affects our family today. We will never understand completely. The reason will never be apparent. If you have thought of suicide, please know that regardless of what you are going through, it is not a solution. The people you leave behind would reel with confusion, extreme heartache, and grief. Please reach out to an active, loving Christian church in your area.
I am attending a program in my church called Celebrate Recovery. I recently started a Step Study. We have a small group of Christian women that meet weekly to work through a workbook. We don’t try to counsel or fix each other, only listen. It ends up being very therapeutic.
Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered recovery program for anyone with hurts, habits, and hangups. They can help you through this. Check on their website for a program in your area at Celebrate Recovery website. They can help with addictions, smoking, grief, depression, anxiety, and so much more. If you cannot find one, send me an email and your location and I will try to help.