by Landon Chambliss.
On August 13, 2016, I woke up to the sounds of my dad frantically running around the house. When I finally gained some form of consciousness, he told me one of the worst things I’ve ever heard in my life: “Aunt Dana’s house flooded; we’ve got to go.”
I rushed to get ready, which included throwing on clothes, accidentally swallowing mouthwash, and tripping on the bathroom rug. My dad and I shoved anything we thought we needed into the back of his truck: shovels, buckets, water, anything we thought we needed. We left Bedico at around 7 a.m. By that point, the rivers in Tangipahoa Parish were overflowing and Hwy. 22 was blocked off wherever there were bridges. We went through Madisonville and onto Interstate 12.
Everything went fine until we got to Hammond. I was acting as my dad’s second pair of hands as he drove. I called and texted people, checked Google Maps for potential routes with less people, and listened to the radio for more information about what was going on. I was in the middle of talking to my cousin who lives in Baton Rouge and was spared by the flood when the police stopped traffic on I-12.
They were turning hundreds of cars around. We didn’t know what to do. All the other roads we usually took were underwater. The only route my dad knew would work was Interstate 10 through Gonzales, around a three-hour car ride on a normal day. This was no ordinary day, though. We arrived in Baton Rouge at around 11:30 a.m.
Ever since I was five, all major storms that involved people evacuating their homes were compared to Hurricane Katrina. I think I saw Katrina that day.
I saw people walking down the street with bags filled with the only belongings they could hold. Cars that usually held four people were now crammed with six and filled with anything the people could cram in. National Guardsmen with their Humvees lined the sides of the street and helped give directions to shelters or distributed sand bags. We even came across firemen from New Orleans who came to help with evacuating people.
We tried every method we could to get to my aunt’s house, but all the streets surrounding it were filled with water. Luckily, my Aunt and Uncle were saved before the water rose too high, but they were now surrounded by water in the new location. There was nothing we could do.
At around the same time all of this was going on, my grandparents called. They were taking on water.
The scene was chaotic. Cars were piled along the road, and hoards of people were walking up it. The residents of the neighborhood were all crying, scared, or showed no expression on their faces. They were then picked up by family members or by a city bus to take them to a shelter. An ambulance was parked in the middle of the road, tending to the injured. At this point, the water was not yet ankle-high.
After this, everything went into a blur. I was so exhausted from waking up so early and after staying up late the previous night. All I can recollect is my dad telling me to get back in the truck and saying that MawMaw and PawPaw didn’t want to go.
Whether it was because they were prideful in their home or thought the water was not going to reach their home, I don’t know. Every time I bring up the flood, I see a little of my grandparents’ color fade away. Thirty minutes later, we were about to get back on I-10 when they called again. The National Guard was evicting them.
What was once a powerful scene of emotion now became less dramatic. All the previous occupants were taken to the nearby Red Cross shelter. The only people left on the scene were the East Baton Parish Police, who were taking a lunch break. After persuading the police to go back for my grandparents, we hopped onto the back of the truck and left for the house. When we left, the area that didn’t have water to our ankles minutes before was now to our waists and covering almost all of the truck’s tires.
What we saw next will forever haunt my memories. St. Paul’s is a huge fan of CNN student news, allowing the student body to see videos of flooded houses, especially last year during the incident in North Carolina. I never thought I would see in person what millions of people see on CNN.
Today, my grandparents, aunt, uncle, and the rest of my family in Baton Rouge are safe. It’s been a huge challenge for our family both emotionally and physically. Thank you to everyone who has shown support for Baton Rouge by donating or giving some of your time to help. You don’t know what it means to them.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” – Psalm 46:1