It’s been almost 2 months since Isaac devastated LaPlace, so I thought it was about time to write my story.
My family and I live in LaPlace, Louisiana. This city is located between Lake Maurepaus, Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. There are areas of LaPlace that have flooded before, but most neighborhoods never see water in the street, much less in their homes. Hurricane Katrina did nothing more than blow some shingles off roofs, knock out power, and tear up a few trees. Hurricane Isaac was a different story.
In the past, I have evacuated for Hurricanes mostly because I needed an excuse to visit my family. This time, the storm was not big, it was not supposed to hang around long, and our parish had not even issued a voluntary evacuation. So we decided to stay.
Well here's the story.
The storm actually come on land Tuesday, August 28. We slept through most of it. When we woke up, our fence was down, but other than that, we were good.
We were watching the water level in the street and listening to our battery operated radio. No warnings. No news about anything happening in LaPlace. They were talking about Orleans Parish and Jefferson Parish, not St. John the Baptist Parish.
Around 1:30pm on Wednesday, Aug. 29, we got a call from some good friends who live in Summerlin Lakes off Hwy 51, that they had received news that their neighborhood was being evacuated. It had been a little while since we checked the water level on our street so we looked out the window and realized the water was filling the street. In about 30 minutes, the water was up over the street and rising. We knew there was no way we could get a car out.
Around an hour later, the water was rising, but slower, so we figured that maybe it was leveling off. But no, it just kept raining. Isaac did not move. He just sat there, for hours, dumping water on us.
Here are a few pictures of the front yard. I chose to stay on the door step, so this is a picture of my neighbor’s house.
In this picture, the water is not in our neighbor’s house yet. They got 8-10 inches in their house. The water came up to my flower beds.
Here is a picture of Jace standing in the street. The water is over his knees.
Obviously you can see, there is no driving out of our neighborhood at this point. The water was actually getting uncomfortably high on the Civic, so we moved both cars to the front yard. We parked them where you see grass in this picture.
We watched our neighbors houses fill with water and we started wondering what we were going to do. When the water started coming up to where we had moved the cars, we made the decision to run. Over the next few minutes, we unplugged everything important and stored it in the attic, on top of the kitchen cabinets, on top of the bed, etc. There was a bus a few yards away, so we packed a bag, put a life jacket on my 4 year old, put leashes on the dogs, and started wading out into deep water to get to the bus. I wish I had picture of this, but to be honest, I was in a state of shock. I could not believe what was happening. When we finally left the water was inches from coming in the house. It was on the front door step. I just knew our house was going to get water in it.
When I saw all those people doing this same thing during Katrina, I kept saying, “How could they not know? How were they not prepared?” We became those people!
On the way to the bus, we convinced our neighbors to come with us. A group of 6 adults, 6 children, and 5 dogs loaded busses to go to the shelter.
We rode a bus from our neighborhood to a local church, about 2 miles away. It took us about 20 min to make that drive. Once we got to the shelter, there were HUNDREDS, no maybe THOUSANDS of people there. It was absolute chaos. We waited on our bus (in our soaking wet clothes) for about 20 minutes before we made it to the unloading zone.
One family had a ride waiting for them once we arrived at the shelter. The rest of us began trying to figure out what we were going to do. We knew we could not stay at that shelter and they were busy loading buses of people to take them to Shreveport. No way were we going to Shreveport.
Now I should jump back and mention, the friends that were lucky enough to have someone in their neighborhood tell them to leave, were at Jace’s parents house. When they called us, we told them to go there and we would get there when we could. I should also mention that they made that drive from LaPlace to Baton Rouge in the middle of the hurricane.
At 6:30pm we realized our only hope was to have someone come get us. We were reluctant to have people on the road during such bad weather, but we had no hope of making it the night at the shelter. We called Jace’s parents to come get us. We waited under the awning of the Fred's in LaPlace in the rain until they could get to us. It was cold and wet but we survived.
At 8:30pm, 6 adults, 3 kids, and 4 dogs loaded into a ford explorer and headed to baton rouge. You do the math...there were no car seats, no third row, not everyone was in a seat belt, but we didn't care!
We arrived at Jace’s parents house around 10pm. We were wet, tired and hungry, but we were safe. The very first thing I did when it got there was bathe my son. After wading through who knows what in that water in the street in Laplace, he needed a bath.
Shortly after all of us getting cleaned up, we ate. The last time any of us had eaten anything was about 11am, and that was just a peanut butter sandwich. Nothing fancy.
That night, ALL of the Raney’s stayed with Jace’s parents (Mr.. Jerry, Mrs. Jan, Jace, Cohen, Adam, Tricia, Brue, and me). We also had all of our pets (4 dogs and a cat). In addition to the Raney’s, we brought our LaPlace friends, the Safleys (2 adults, 3 kids, 1 dog, and 1 cat) and the Courvilles (2 adults, 2 kids, and 2 dogs). So add it up folks, 1 house, 5 families, 10 adults, 7 children, 7 dogs, and 2 cats. Isaac really caught us all off guard.
Adam and Tricia got power the next day, so they went back to their home, but the rest of us stayed another 2 nights, until the flood waters went down enough for us to get into our homes.
That first night was awful. None of us Laplace families knew whether or not the water got in our homes. We also were not able to contact many of our friends because of poor cell phone service.
The next morning, the Courvilles and us found out from our neighbors that the water did not go in our homes. Praise God! The Safleys were still unsure as to what they would return to, but they had wonderful spirits. I have to be honest, I didn’t take the neighbors word as truth. I needed someone to go in my house and tell me for sure that we were dry.
A couple days after the storm, Jace, Matt Safley, Katie Safley, and Mark Courville went back to LaPlace to check on the damage. I had the privilege of hanging out with the kids! I adore each one of these kids, so it was a real treat.
We were so tired of being in the house, so I let all the kids just play outside ALL MORNING!
Playing in the mud puddles was probably not the best decision on my part. We really didn’t have loads of clean clothes. Oh well.
We found out that ALL of our homes were DRY! Praise God!! There are about 200 homes in my neighborhood, and about 10 were dry, and ours was one of them.
I didn’t actually return to LaPlace until Sunday. Our Pastor and his family evacuated to Arkansas, and because of the destruction, they were not able to make it to church on Sunday. He asked Jace to fill in for him, so we had to be at church bright and early Sunday morning. It was surreal talking with our church family and hearing how the storm affected their lives. Many homes flooded. Many had roof damage, fences down, debris in their yards, but we were there to worship a God who promises to care for us during any type of storm.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. –Psalm 121:1-2
We ended up getting water in our garage and had to toss some things we really didn’t need anyway.
I considered not writing this story at all, but I decided to tell my story. To take this opportunity to remind my blog readers that LaPlace is still very much in need of prayers. Most of the homes in my neighborhood are still uninhabitable. Many have moved back, but there is still so much work to be done.