I had to deal with the flooding in South Louisiana last week and there are a few things I learned as well as a timeline. All we were really told leading up to this was there would be LOTS of rain, no one at all predicted or expected these floods. It was kind of surreal because it happened so fast. This will be a long post, but I think there are some valuable lessons I learned in this situation.
On Friday evening it was raining pretty hard, and all night and into Saturday morning. I started hearing reports of how bad the flooding was on Saturday morning via the web because I still had internet/phone access. It kept raining HEAVY all day Saturday but I was oblivious to the severity as I had now lost internet connection (this was around 2 PM on Saturday). My neighborhood looked high and dry and there were kids playing out in the streets and splashing in the puddles. When I lost internet I started kind of shifting into gear as far as taking this a little more seriously. My wife was pretty stressed in the later part of Saturday as she was hearing reports of her friends via texts and phone calls, but again, my neighborhood looked like any other day. I began pulling out lanterns, batteries, candles, rations, MRE, propane canisters, Mountain House meals etc. in the event of a power loss.
Around 5 PM I decided to load my wife’s car down with our camping tote box, our 2 bug out bags, dog food, kennel, etc. I decided I should move my vehicle to higher ground (the middle school in the front of my neighborhood) to lessen the chance of us being stranded. On the way to the higher ground I decided to do a little scouting to see what I could see. I tried to go into the neighborhood directly behind me and my stomach sank. There was probably 25 boats rescuing people and water 5 feet high on houses. I immediately turned around and head to the school, as I rounded the corner I noticed there were at least 200 vehicles and easily 500 people there. I immediately shifted into high gear. I parked and talked to a policeman and he informed me they had made the school an emergency shelter late Friday evening. There was 1 policeman and easily over 500 people here. I started to get a little uneasy. My car was stripped of any valuables or necessities before I decided to leave it at higher ground that evening.
I went back home and informed my wife of the situation at the school. We basically watched DVD’s and hung out till around 8 PM when I decided to walk the neighborhood and catch up with some neighbors. As I rounded the corner in the back of my neighborhood I saw the last thing in the world I wanted to see. There is a lake in my neighborhood and the ditches feed the lake. Well the lake rose so high that it started feeding the ditches and the ditches started overflowing into the streets and front yards. I went back home and started moving guns/ammo/documents/our safe to the attic. I tried to keep my wife calm as she is a worrier, but when we started doing all this it was hard for me to hide how bad it really was. We put our furniture and things on top of our beds and keepsakes in the tops of closets. About 3 hours had passed so I decided to go check the water in the neighborhood again, my god, it had advanced 30 feet to my house and was getting into homes in the back of my neighborhood. I started getting landscape stones out of our flowerbeds and raising couches, dining table, entertainment stand etc.
About 10 PM I told my wife to go to sleep, I put on a cup of coffee ( I knew I wouldn’t be sleeping) and her and my son went to sleep on the couch. I figured I should check the water every hour on the hour and that is what I did all night. After about 3 more hours the water was about 40 feet from my house and still rising / advancing. I was talking to some of the neighbors who were out there checking it and they were all informing me of how bad it was out of my neighborhood and showing videos that family members had sent them. This is when I noticed this was a huge event. I need to add that as of about 11 PM on Saturday there was ZERO cell service through AT&T. Verizon and Sprint was running but ZERO AT&T. I went home and tried to relax and pray for the water to recede and about 1 AM – ZAP – off went the power. My previous foresight made this part easy, lit the lanterns and decided I would doze off in thirty minute intervals. I went to do another check at 4 AM and my neighbor informed me that the front of the neighborhood was taking on substantial amounts of water. I walked up there and saw about 2 feet of standing water. I jetted home and woke my wife up, if we were going to make it out the neighborhood now was the time to do it. We loaded up the van and bugged out to the shelter in the front of the neighborhood.
Guys, I live in a nice area, extremely low crime, moderate incomes…I felt secure. At the shelter things were looking pretty calm until about 5:30 AM when 5 military trucks showed up and dumped refugees from a VERY low income, HIGH crime area. There were no military diet substitutes here. I felt ill, that secure feeling is immediately taken away. I told my wife we would not be sleeping in the shelter, and worst case we would sleep in her van. We decided to hang around the shelter, at this point we could not drive back home, and I walked every 2 hours to check the water. Every 2 hours it was rising and advancing. My wife and son got hungry and I went INTO the actual shelter (school gym) and my God the smell. So many dogs, cats, birds, hamsters and other pets the smell was horrendous. Guess what? No food, no water. These people had been here 36 hours with no food and no potable water. Not many were drinking water fountain water as we were under a boil advisory. These people who were here were rescued from their homes and had nothing more than a backpack at most. No food, no water. We ate in the car with a towel over the windshield and the windows rolled up. I was scared for people to see our rations.
We found an open door in the actual school part and snuck in to the very last hallway and sat there for hours and hours, at least we had A/C. I continued to check the water at my house and it was slowing! It had actually receded about ½” and stopped advancing. I placed a piece of bamboo in my ditch and was marking the water level with surveyors tape so I could examine water levels on my periodic checks. I went back to school to inform my wife of this great news. I still wasn’t comfortable enough or trusting enough of the water to head home just yet. Slowly but surely around 3 PM people started noticing us in the hall, asking us for food, and asking for water. I denied having anything. I saw people smoking cigarettes in the school and doing other questionable things. About 4 PM there was basically a break in of the cafeteria and people starting taking whatever they could from the lunch provisions. I kind of don’t blame them, almost 48 hours and no food. I told my wife to pack up we are leaving immediately. We waded through the now 3 feet of water to get back home.
I made several trips BACK to our van at the shelter to get supplies we would need to make it for the night. Basically we were exhausted by 8 PM and went to sleep that night in an 84 degree house. It sucked. When I awoke on Monday morning we did some riding and soon learned we had two ways out, one left and one right. The left one was closed about ½ mile down by police and the one to the right was closed ¼ mile down by raging flood waters. We were now on an island. I now switched to full on bug in / protection mode. We basically had no problems after that and everything was fine. We were stranded in our house for a total of 6 days with zero way out and no power and a boil advisory. We made it just fine as we had tons of food and water. More than enough.
Now for some things I learned and some things I was grateful for.
1. We have a 4 month old dog, was an AMAZING guard dog, alerted us all night of passersby which was nice since we were sleeping with all windows open.
- My neighbors and the “Cajun Navy” were EXTREMELY helpful and would do anything for anyone.
- People do not have provisions, and when people see that you DO have them, they want them.
- I kept my pistol within arms reach at ALL times. I was never without it (except for in the school shelter, which never had more than 1 policeman, but no guns in school).
- Water goes QUICKLY. Between us 3 and the pup we drank 3.25 Gal the first day.
- Food goes slow. With stress being so high, we had no appetite.
- The National Guard / Police / Coast Guard had NO PLAN besides to rescue people and take them to a shelter. Once at the shelter, there was NOTHING for these people.
- The shelter sucked. It was hostile, smelly, uncomforting and just a bad place to be. Safe I suppose, but I would imagine once people got hungrier things got weirder.
- When you are on an island, with no cell service or cable or internet, it is HARD AS HELL to get info on anything. I heard so many bullshit rumors from people it would make your head spin. The old telephone game I suppose.
- Candles suck with a 2 year old and a pup. Stick with LED lanterns.
- Just because you live in a nice area doesn’t mean it will not immediately be a bad area as far as people go.
- I saw people having withdrawals at the shelter, just laying in the parking lot and shaking and screaming. Quite a sight.
- People will try to fuck with you.
- A bugout bag and “innawoods” is a fantasy. And you can’t get in the woods if the woods are now a lake.
- I will be buying a truck or jeep in the next 6 months. A van and a car suck for the situation we were in.
- I will be buying a generator in the next 6 months.
- We have decided to keep my wife on ATT and me switch to Verizon, if one is down we can have the other.
- BE PREPARED. I saw a lot of sad stuff that we did not have to deal with because we are prepared and all a team.