Photo by: Patrick Dennis/The Advocate, via Associated Press
If you live outside of Louisiana, you may not be hearing very much about the flooding in Louisiana anymore. You may have heard when Donald Trump or President Obama paid us a visit but flood coverage has probably slacked off in the past week or so. So, in case you haven’t heard, let me bring you up to speed on what’s been going on down here. In the span of four days, 7.1 trillion gallons of water was dropped on southeastern Louisiana during what is being called a “1-in-1,000-year event.” In a report by the Washington Post, Jason Samenow states “Hurricane Katrina, by comparison, only left behind about 2.3 trillion gallons of rainwater in the state.” This no name storm appeared rapidly and lingered for days, continually dumping rain on our state. This led to an unprecedented amount of flooding in and around Baton Rouge that has never been seen before, with many rivers cresting at record breaking levels. While the media may not be reporting on it anymore, clean up has begun and people are emerging from the waters with stories you wouldn’t believe.
I’m from the small town of Holden in Livingston Parish. A little one-red-light town about 45 minutes outside of Baton Rouge, Holden was one of the towns so greatly effected by the super storm in August. During a recent trip to my hometown to bring relief and offer assistance with Lifesongs, I caught up with family and friends who had already experienced flooding in March of this year, but nowhere near the disastrous levels it reached a few weeks ago.
View from the Gill’s Carport
My Aunt Wendy Gill, who has been living in her home in Holden for nearly 27 years, told me that through the worst periods of flooding, including the hurricanes she and my Uncle Wade had rode out, that water had never made it into their home. In the March 2016 flooding it reached their home’s carport, the closest to taking on water they had ever come in their residency. That changed on Saturday, August 13th 2016. Aunt Wendy told me, “At 3:00 AM, we were ankle deep under the carport. By 3:20 AM, it was rushing into the house.” They rode out the day and night in their attic, with the currents around their house too powerful for even the National Guard’s boats to reach them. When they came down, their home was completely different.
Inside the Gill Home
Down the road from the Gill’s home are Matthew and Misty McCorkle. This couple holds a special place in my heart for multiple. Matthew was my youth pastor growing up and his family treat my like their own and have for years now. Plus they are parents to two of the coolest kids I’ve ever met, Maddox and Micah. I count them among my dearest friends. The McCorkle’s youngest son, Micah, has a form of Batten Disease, a rare genetic neurodegenerative disease that there is currently no treatment and no cure (read more about Micah and his journey here). When the flooding began, the McCorkle family was in the hospital with Micah as he battled double pneumonia. The McCorkle’s home was one of many in southern Louisiana that was completely devastated and counted as a total loss in the wake of the flooding.
The McCorkle Home
When Micah was discharged, the McCorkle family came home to a waterlogged home. They moved into Misty’s parent’s home and began to assess the damage. Thankful before the waters made their way into the home, Misty’s mom and dad, Alan and Lisa Gill, were able to get into the house and pick up some items that would have been damaged otherwise. Items like a special bed for Micah that was just finished before the storm. While I was there this past week, Matthew and I worked to salvage furniture before it was claimed by mold, while another friend sorted through years of scrapbooks that were submerged during the flood.
Drying Out Photos at the McCorkle Home
Both the Gill and McCorkle family have something in common, that they also share with thousands of other families throughout Louisiana. That commonality is not found in what is loss. It’s found in the strength to love and to carry on. When the flooding began, the situation quickly became dire for many people. Conversations turned from “it’s not going to affect us” to “it won’t get in our house” to “we need to get out” in a flash. Surrounded by devastation, hundreds and hundreds of Louisiana natives came together to form the Cajun Navy. These heroes worked tirelessly to rescue those who were stuck as the waters quickly rose and the National Guard became overwhelmed during the worsening disaster. They were not paid. They were suffering loss as well. They saw a need and they met a need. As the floodwaters subsided, thousands emerged to lend a hand in relief efforts. Churches, businesses, and individuals all came together to open shelters and relief centers while also aiding in the restoration of homes throughout southern Louisiana. They were not (and are not) paid. They are suffering loss as well. They see a need and they continue to meet this need.
When I met with the Gills a little over a week after the flood, both Aunt Wendy and Uncle Wade echoed the same sentiment; “It’s so much worse for others.” It’s this kind of selfless thinking from the Gill family that is being shared across Louisiana. “It’s bad, but it is worse for our neighbors. Let’s help out” Southern hospitality found new meaning as the water rose. The people of Louisiana banded together to help one another.
Wendy Gill in her Gutted Home
The McCorkle family is busy packing away what was not destroyed in the flood and preparing for what is next. Uncertainty clouds the immediate future for the four of them, but like the rest of the population of our great state, they will press on. The rebuilding process has begun. Even though normal is a far way off, The McCorkles, and families across Louisiana, are looking up. Better days lay past the waters.
Helping Matthew McCorkle Load Remaining Belongings in Storage
Louisiana is a tough and tenacious state. We get knocked down, sure. But we pick ourselves back up, dust ourselves off, and we keep doing. And in times like these, we see our neighbor and we help them up too. We are Louisiana strong.