Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Flood Part 4: Shelter Living

As I stated before, we were moved from the gym to the church building.  I will admit, this was much more comfortable.  There was even a coffee bar that we used and drank cappuccino!  This is a pic of our shelter buddies.  This sweet family lives in our neighborhood and walked into the shelter about 30 minutes after we did.  We were so happy to see each other.  Chris and Nikki have 4 boys and adopted a precious little girl a couple of years ago.  

Do you see the big guy on the left?  That's Chris.  Do you see the Mickey Mouse crocs he has on his feet?  Bryce wore those crocs out of our house.  Those shoes belong to Cade's friend, Gideon.  Bryce just saw them at the house and put them on because of the water.  I have NO IDEA what Gideon had on his feet!  I think he had some hunting boots, but I'm not sure.  Bryce was smart enough to pack his tennis shoes in his backpack so when we got to the shelter, we had an extra pair of shoes.  When Chris and Nikki showed up, Nikki had a bag packed with an unbelievable amount of things.  Chris had 2 very nice watches on his arms...but had NO shoes!  He took the crocs because there was no telling where we would end up in all of this, and shoes are a little more important than watches ;)  I know this story doesn't sound very interesting to everyone, but I have to say, I have laughed at the thought of those crocs many many times.

You might notice that their family has towels and a blanket.

and my family does not! lol...  I didn't know....I know now!

I am not a dog crazy person, but I'm just going to tell you..I think we have the best dog in the world.  There were hundreds of animals at this shelter.  Hazel never barked, never ran off, she was just happy to be with us.

Nikki and the masagers she had packed in her bag!  She also had essential oils, a gallon of milk, and a boston butt roast!!!!!  I am not lying!  It was impressive!!

Arrington and I roamed the halls and took selfies in the wee hours of the morning.

I also had phone service in the middle of the night.  I started texting people at 2:30 in the morning.  My poor dad must have been sleeping with his phone because he answered me right away.  I was getting worried that the water was still rising and they might need to evacuate from their house.  I had just given them 5 children to be responsible for!!  He assured me that he did not expect to flood, and thankfully they did not.

I called Gideon's mom to let her know where her son was!  Gideon is really just like one of mine, but I know Karen was stressed.  She mentioned that they had a neighbors boat and paddles and would come to get us.  OH HECK NO!!  I had just gotten off the most terrifying boat ride of my life!  There was no way I was doing that again!!  

Morning came.  We realized we were literally on an island.  The church was completely surrounded by water.

Throughout the day, the coast guard and national guard started evacuating our shelter by helicopter.  Because we didn't have anyone older, or a baby, or someone sick...we would be there a while.  Because of this, I was able to meet some incredibly brave people.

Around noon, a woman was brought to the church.  She was shaking terribly and her skin was in horrible shape.  She was soaking wet.  My friend, Karen (screaming on the porch Karen) is a cardiologist so she was caring for people who needed medical attention.  She started asking this woman what happened.  This woman had spent the entire night floating in the water while holding on to a piece of wood.  She had finally come across a flooded truck and had gotten in the back of it.  She stayed there until a boat came by and found her.  I cannot even imagine...  Karen had a medical helo come get her but she did not want to go.  She told Karen that she had just lost everything she owned and that her deductible would be $6700.  She said she would rather just die.  Karen got her on that helicopter.  I won't ever find out what happened to that woman, but I will never forget her!

Around 3:00, Karen and her family were loaded on a helicopter and brought out.  She left me a sheet, pillow and blanket which I was very happy to have!  Not long after that, I see another family walk into the church, soaking wet.  There was a very young mom holding onto a 7 month old.  I immediately walked over to see if I could help.  Someone found some tshirts in the church to give this family but no pants.  I went to my bag and grabbed a pair of nike shorts and that blanket Karen had left.  I asked the mom if I could hold her baby while she went to change.  I assured her that I would be standing right there when she came back.  I wrapped that baby in that blanket and wondered what their story was.  A little while later, I went and sat by this mom and asked her how long they had walked.  She didn't really know but said there were parts that were up to her chest.  They walked towards the church but got stuck in a field.  It was pouring down rain at the time.  The helicopters were flying overhead and they got the attention of one pilot.  He radioed that there was a family who needed help.  They must have been standing in that field for at least an hour.

The most surprising and touching part of our conversation started with this comment by her.  "I don't know how y'all do it".  I asked her to explain and she said, "I don't know how you moms do this with little kids."  I then took that opportunity to make sure that she knew that she is one of those moms.  I said, "Oh my goodness, you ARE that mom!  You just walked for hours through floods and rain and you made it.  You got your baby here safe.  You are that mom!"  It was such a sweet moment because I know the reality of what she had just done had not sunk in yet.

I will share that the reason she touched me so much is when she was standing there with no dry bottoms to change into, it brought me right back to 11 years ago when we had to run out of our burning house in the middle of the night.  I had on a big tshirt and panties.  One of my neighbors, who I really didn't know, brought me some shorts to put on.  I have never forgotten that moment.  I was thrilled to be able to pay that moment forward.

The hours passed.  There were funny moments.  I had to help a woman trap her cat so she could get it back in her crate.  This was done out of pure self preservation!  Cats are MEAN...just saying!!  I found out that one family had brought a ferret with them!  I was in the bathroom and noticed a woman washing her little dog's feet.  When I asked her about it, I realized the dog had stepped in ants and had them all over her paws.  I sat there in the bathroom with her, picking hundreds of ants off this little dog.  Then went and got one of my benedryl for the poor thing!!   
Chris and Nikki flew out because they had a baby, but it was getting darker and there were still quite a few of us left.  Then these drove up:

We really wanted to fly on that helicopter but decided that this was our best bet to get out of there.  I did not realize that we were about to embark on another wild ride!!!!!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Flood Part 3: Evacuation

There aren't many pics of this part of the story.  Things started to get a little frantic.  One of Bryce's high school friends is now a volunteer fireman.  He was in contact with Bryce and let him know that they were coming to our neighborhood to evacuate, but couldn't give us a time.  I knew he would come for us, so I wasn't stressed about that.  I was, however stressed about the fact that it would be dark before long. 

Another family from the back of the neighborhood came to our house to wait for the boats.  This couple brought with them their 6 and 4 year old, their nanny, two elderly large dogs and a grandfather who is paralyzed on half his body. 

This is how we tried to keep him dry as the water rose.

As we waited, one of our best friends came in a boat, driven by a local guy just helping out.  He already had Cade and Gideon with him (again....we did NOT think we would be flooding!).  They had room for 3 more people.  The decision I made next haunts me a bit, but in that split second, I did what I thought was best.  Thankfully, it all worked out. 

There are 2 exits from our neighborhood to the main road.  My parents live 5 minutes from the point this boat was dropping off.  I had already been in contact with them and knew that my dad would be waiting at the fire station on that corner for us.  I decided to send Braden and the girls with Cade and Gideon.  I didn't really understand how hairy the boat ride would be until I took another boat out later.  Had I known, I would have gone instead of Braden.  Physically, though, if something had happened, Braden is stronger than me and would have had a better chance of saving the girls.  They left, but ended up going to pick up some more people before they left the neighborhood.  We didn't know they were doing that.  A while later, their boat passed in front of our house and was severely overloaded.  Richard panicked and started yelling at them.  He knew that they would be crossing the canal and the current was fierce at that point.  He had just come through there a couple of hours before.  We literally stood on my front porch and listened, trying to hear if they flipped or not.  Just typing this makes my chest tighten.  They made it. 

We later found out that there were 2 dogs on the boat with them.  When everyone got out of the boat, the large dog attacked the small dog and killed it!  I am so grateful that Cade saw things were going sour and took the girls and started running up the street with them.  Because of this, they didn't see that happen!  You can imagine the panic and screaming going on during all of this!  I also found out later that the boys were very nervous during the boat ride.  They had already decided who was in charge of which girl if something happened.  This makes me both proud and also want to throw up!

They made it, and my dad was there waiting for them.  He took them to their house and then went back to the fire station to wait for us. 

That boat never returned for us, which is probably the best thing.  I think Richard might have punched the driver if he showed back up!  He was trying to help as many people as he could, but things could have turned out much differently.

So Richard, Bryce, Hazel, myself, and our friends waited for the firemen to come.  As it got dark, we called 911 asking to be rescued.  Having the other family with us was concerning because the grandfather was in no condition to go through this.  It wasn't long before Bryce's friend yelled from a boat "We are coming to you".  He got out of the boat and said "mom!" as I gave him the biggest hug.  I told him I knew he would come for us.  We all loaded into this boat and began to boat out of the neighborhood.  At this point, it was dark and you could only see the tops of the mailboxes.  I ended up sitting in the back of the boat by the driver.  The other firemen were holding big spotlights but the driver couldn't see over the people in the boat.  I had brought a little flashlight with me and started shining it on the mailboxes and telling him which way the road was turning.  It was a maze to get out of there and not hit a mailbox or electrical box or a flooded car!  As we took off in that direction, I realized we were going to the other entrance of the neighborhood.

I'm not going to lie, that boat ride was terrifying.  I was holding my friend's 4 year old and my little flashlight.  When we hit the current of the main road, I was terrified.  We started taking on water and going into the trees.  What a crazy ride.  We made it to the entrance and realized it had been turned into a full fledged rescue operation.  Boats coming and going bringing boatloads of residents out of the neighborhood. 

My house, earlier in the day :(

This is the only picture I have of that boat ride, taken by my friend.  I was too busy with the flashlight to get my phone out ;)

We called my dad and realized that the water had been steady rising, there was no way he could get to us at that side of the neighborhood.  In fact, when he went back to his house, it was questionable that he would be able to make it back.  He drove through some super high water to make it back.

 This is looking down the road we boated out of.  This was the boat launch.

So...we realize my dad can't come, stare at each other for a second and then get on the bus that stopped in front of us!  We had no idea where it was going.  Here is a picture of the bus I took a couple weeks later.  It makes me laugh every time I look at it with those flames, and it was a part of so many people's story!

We had no idea where the bus was taking us, but before we ended up at a shelter, it drove towards town a little to pick up some more people.  It was shocking to see the number of people standing on the street and in parking lots.  Really unthinkable of how many people were affected.  Hundreds of people ended up sleeping in those parking lots that night.  We were very blessed.

The bus drove through some crazy scary water and dropped us off at a local church gym.  We have never been to a shelter before and had no idea what to expect.  Richard was completely exhausted.  He had been traveling and spent the entire day trying to get home to us...then out of our home.  He literally lay down on the gym floor, covered his eyes and went to sleep! 

It amazes me.  I knew better than to even try to sleep.  It was not happening for me!  Not to mention that I knew lots of other people in the shelter and I was busy visiting with them :)  We only stayed in the gym for a couple of hours because the water was still rising and threatening to come into the gym.  They moved us into the new church building, which made for a very comfy shelter, complete with a coffee bar!

I have lots of shelter stories I want to write, so I'll post those next.  I am happy to be writing all of this, just for myself.  I feel like it's helping me sort it all out in my brain!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Flood Part 2 August 13

The next morning, I was relieved to see the water looked to recede a little bit overnight.  Richard got to the airport early and was able to catch an earlier flight to try to make it home.  It was questionable if he would be able to make it, however, because the interstates were being closed and roads were flooding all around us.

The boys decided to empty the freezer and grill anything they found.

Yes, If you're counting...there's an extra boy.  I'm telling you, there was no way we thought we were flooding!

My brother and his family live on the other side of the same river.  We had a group message going with our dad keeping up with each other.  We were both in the same situation.  I put my dad in charge of helping Richard get home from the airport in New Orleans while checking on which roads were closed.  It took him 6 hours to get us to our town by going around flooded areas.  He drives a really big truck and that came in handy! 

He finally made it to us by parking as close as he could and getting a friend to bring him to the house in a boat.  It must have been around 4:00 in the afternoon by the time he made it to us.  It was becoming more apparent that we would be taking on water.

And the water came.  Fast!!  Our plan was to stay at the house upstairs, but when the water started coming in and sewage started to back-up, there was no way we were staying there overnight!
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