Isidore soaks River Parishes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 1, 2002


LAPLACE – When Melissa and Gui Hubert Guillory moved to Belle Grove Drive in LaPlace about five weeks ago, they never thought they would be watching fish try to swim up their driveway or pulling leeches and frogs from their living room.

But Thursday afternoon, shortly after regaining power lost when a tree struck a neighborhood power line, that is exactly what they did.

The Guillory home flooded early Thursday morning during Tropical Storm Isidore’s assault on Louisiana. More than 200 sandbags surrounded the Guillory home at the end of their subdivision. But, Melissa Guillory said, the sandbags were too little, too late.

With at least two to three inches of water moving into the house, furniture, carpets and wood floors were ruined. The amount of damage done to the house is still unknown. The insurance company is slated to visit the house within the next few days to survey the damage.

“Right now we are just picking up stuff out of the floors and going through it to see what can be saved,” Melissa Guillory said. “We are trying to call FEMA and the insurance company. We are starting to think about where we are going to stay. Really there is nothing else we can do.”

The Guillory family said Thursday they would probably remain in the house for the night, despite slippery floors, drenched carpeting and usual smells. To leave the house before the water has been pumped out of the neighborhood would require the couple and their young son to wade to the entrance to the subdivision and catch a ride with a neighbor or family member.

For now, they wait, trying to use humor and positive thinking to get through the next few days.

“Hey, that ‘no drinks in the living room no longer applies,'” Melissa Guillory told her son as he opened a soda at the kitchen counter. “You can go anywhere you want with it. The floors and sofa are already wet anyway.”

“And the ‘no smoking in the house’ rule does not apply either. The place smells funny already.”

But the semblance of lighthearted banter is clouded by some fears, anger and indecision. After a long night, battling water with virtually no sleep, the couple said they do not know whether or not they are going to remain in the neighborhood.

“We expected some water in the street, but we sure did not expect any water in the house,” Melissa Guillory said. “I found out just the night before last that ‘Oh, by the way, the people who owned the house before you had to sandbag every time it rained.’ If we would have known it would be like this, we would not have moved here.”

If the Guillory family decides to remain in the LaPlace neighborhood, wooden floors and carpeting will have to be pulled up and replaced.

“Walls are soaking up dirty, swampy water,” Melissa Guillory said. “We do not even know if the air conditioner is working. It went under.”

Husband Gui Guillory added, “The insurance company will be here first thing in the morning. We can not really do much until then. If we try to pull up the carpet now, it would turn out to be something that the insurance company would not want us to do.”

Neighbors in the residential community blame faulty drainage, unkept ditches and culverts and the increase in new residential communities off of Main Street for the flooding. Neighbors in the community said that builders did not follow proper procedure for drainage when the community was originally built.

Just a down the street, mother Diana Roberts watched her sons cast fishing lines and nets into the river of water in front of her LaPlace home. With snakes and leeches in waters surrounding her home, Roberts said she worries about where the two boys are playing.

The Roberts home is one of the last to be built in the neighborhood. It is built higher than many of the neighboring homes. Still, the flood waters came up onto her driveway.

“It has been doing nothing but getting worse,” Roberts said. “We are going to get a real heavy downpour out here and a lot more homes are going to be flooded.”

Roberts said that her family is normally one of the first to evacuate when a hurricane is predicted. Since Isidore never developed beyond a tropical storm, Roberts said she and her family felt safe remaining in the home. What happened next really was not all that usual, she said.

“We have lived in this house going on eight years,” Roberts said. “When we get a real heavy downpour, it is like this. That is what we want to make sure the parish understands. This is not just because of the storm.”

Neighbors are sitting on little patches of grass beside the little river that use to be the entrance into their subdivision. Children splashed lightheartedly in the water. A canoe full of girls floats lazily down the street.

But for Roberts and many other neighbors, the mood is not so jubilant.

“They (the parish) paved Highway 51,” she said. “I have seen them pave a neighbor’s driveway, but for some reason they won’t fix our drainage problem.”

Near the entrance to the subdivision, Parish Councilman Duaine Duffy sits with a group of neighbors, watching as a tree is removed from a powerline across the street. Duffy went into the neighborhood Wednesday night and Thursday morning to survey the damage. He toured the Guillory home at the end of the street and brought some sandbags to the home during the night.

Duffy said the answer to the neighborhood drainage problem is more complicated than it seems.

“When you get 15 inches of rain in 30 hours people are going to have flooding,” Duffy said. “Thank goodness it did not affect many houses. It remained primarily in the street.”

LaPlace got about 10 inches of rain on Wednesday and an additional 4.86 after midnight.

“Tropical storms are natural disasters,” Duffy said. “It is almost impossible to build systems to solve all the problems. This subdivision in particular is too low.”

A new pumping system for the subdivision would be expensive. But, Duffy said, that does not mean the local government is not going to try.

“I think what we are going to do to alleviate flooding is to build a pump north of here,” Duffy said. “But the real solution is for the federal government to build a hurricane system that will allow us to pump out the water.”

The street was only one of the roads that flooded as a result of heavy rains in St. John Parish. Houses at the end of Main Street have water right up to their foundations. Streets in the Cambridge/Colony subdivision have standing water, making driving in the community unsafe.

The Highway 51 exit into LaPlace from Interstate 10 and parts of U.S. Highway 51 are underwater.

The exit will remained closed until further notice. The St. John the Baptist Sheriff’s Office said the water has to recede before any action can be taken.

Schools in St. John the Baptist Parish closed Wednesday and Thursday.

Most reopened Friday despite some standing water in several parts of the parish.