One year ago, Webster Parish became the bull’s-eye for what some called the “100 year flood” – and recovery efforts continue.
James Shepherd, 72, said he’s repaired and renovated most of the inside of his home and has taken some precautionary measures since he and his wife, Elaine, returned to their home. There are small repairs that need to be done, such as repainting doors and some yard work. However, he hopes he never has to deal with that magnitude of flooding again, he said.
“I wasn’t expecting a flood,” he said. “We’ve been through a lot, and we were upset over the whole situation. We’ve never been flooded like this before. We were fortunate that we only had that much in every room.”
At about 3:30 a.m. March 8, 2016, the Shepherds were awakened by the sound of banging on their door, and when he stepped out of bed, he stepped into about 18 inches of water. His neighbor had come to get them out, and in turn they helped more neighbors as the water continued to rise.
When they recovered what they could, the couple stayed with her brother and family for about a month until they could get the house livable, he said.
“We spent nights with my brother-in-law until we could get some rooms to where we could use them,” he said. “That way, we could work instead of having to drive from somewhere to come to the house.”
Like many who sustained severe flood damage, he had insurance and he did receive some assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They completed most of the repairs by late October, early November, he said. Much of his furniture and appliances were replaced, although some things were lost that can never be replaced, he said. The Shepherds lost family photos and sentimental keepsakes.
What saved his home, he believes, is the retaining wall he built after his home flooded in 1992. He only had about 18 inches of water inside his home, but many of his neighbors had as much as 4 feet of water. Since the March flooding, he’s dug trenches around three sides of his home so that water will run into the street.
Mayor Tommy Davis said Woods Street and the area around Cooley Creek were some of the worst hit areas in Minden, because it is the lowest point in the city. The city did receive some money from FEMA for drainage repairs, but nothing for the streets that were damaged from the flood.
“There have been a lot of drainage systems that have been repaired and cleaned out,” Davis said. “As far the homes on Woods Street and down that way, we’re talking about major corrective work to be done down there. What we’ve looked at is very expensive, and we’ve checked into money from FEMA, and there is some, but it’s matching money. It’s been very difficult for us to come up with some real solutions in those two areas because they flooded before. It’s because it’s just so low.”
There are no catch basins or drainage along Woods Street, and much of the water in the city that comes from surrounding areas meets at Woods from Cooley Creek. Davis said from Woods Street to Cooley Creek is the same level.
It’s the same issue with the ballfields at the Minden Recreation Complex. The area is flat and there is nowhere for major water runoff to go.
“There’s just not a whole lot of elevation there to work with,” Davis said. “Other than heavy, heavy rains that area does not flood.”
Although Minden felt the immediate impact of the floods, residents who live on Lake Bistineau dealt with the aftermath of rising waters from the lake. Billy Holland, owner of Port-O-Bistineau, lost everything in the floods. Fortunately, within two months, he was able to reopen the store, but he lost about $6,000 worth of inventory. He said the floor inside the store is concrete, so they pressure-washed it clean.
“I lost everything at my house,” he said. “It was a brick home, and water was 4 feet deep. We bought a two-bedroom, two-bath trailer. I haven’t had a house note in 25 years, and we borrowed the money. I’ll have a house note for the rest of my life.”
Their mobile home is now 8 feet high off the ground.
He said the most important thing is he and his family are safe and they are OK, but he will never get back the antique furniture that was passed down from generation to generation, or the photographs of his grandchildren.
He and his wife left everything behind except their vehicles. Today, they are making do, even though they cannot replace those most precious items.
“I feel very relieved, and I thank the Lord for us making it through,” he said. “We barely got out with our vehicles, and we still have our lives. I thank God every day that we’re still able to go.”