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DISASTER STRIKES: Louisianians come together to rebuild and recover following widespread flooding across the southern part of the state

September 22, 2016
Bryce Dugas’s father, Brent Dugas, looks on as their family home takes on flood water. – Photo submitted by Bryce Dugas

Bryce Dugas’s father, Brent Dugas, looks on as their family home takes on flood water.
– Photo submitted by Bryce Dugas

 

ISABELA PALMIERI
Staff Writer |  ipa001@latech.edu

“When we were walking down the road it almost seemed like a movie,” Bryce Dugas said. “The kind of movie where the world is ending and someone is having to leave their home. And it was just crowds of people trying to find a dry spot – or just somewhere they can meet or someone who can pick them up.”

Bryce Dugas, a fourth-generation Denham Springs, in Livingston Parish, resident and Louisiana Tech student, witnessed the disastrous damage on over 60,000 homes left by the South Louisiana flood in early August.

“There were Red Cross helicopters flying over us, army trucks picking up people and a lot of screaming,” Dugas said. “We were all trying to get on an army truck to try to get over some of the high water. they were screaming at us saying there was no more room. It was surreal.”

The damage in Livingston Parish was so extensive that some municipal facilities had to be relocated or closed. Rescue efforts were hindered when the sheriff’s office had to relocate the 911 communications center due to flooding.

“I never thought that would happen in my hometown,” Dugas said. “You see that happening in big cities, but you never see that happening in small town Denham Springs, Louisiana.”

The devastating flood waters invaded not only homes, but schools, destroying campuses all throughout the area. Denham Springs Elementary received between 3 to 6 inches of water, destroying every desk, chair, book, computer, smartboard and teacher resource available.

“We lost every library book as well as textbook in the school,”said Gail DeLee , principal of Denham Springs Elementary. “It was an emotional day as the teachers had to return and inventory the contents lost in their classrooms.”

Denham Springs elementary school endured severe damage during the flood. – Photo courtesy of Dehnam Springs Elementary School

Denham Springs elementary school endured severe damage during the flood. – Photo courtesy of Dehnam Springs Elementary School

The sorority Alpha Chi Omega led a book drive encouraging Tech students and anyone in the community to help restock the Denham Springs Elementary library.

“The students will at least feel some sense of normalcy when we are able to return to our campus by having books in the library and classrooms,” DeLee said.

Over 30,000 people were rescued from South Louisiana, many of whom were Tech students. David Alexander, president of the Kappa Alpha Order at Tech, sent eight of his fraternity brothers to help the people affected by the flood.

“When they got there I think they realized just how bad it was for some of the people in the southern part of the state,” he said. “They were able to help five families, and they went in and helped each of them completely gut their houses.”

Alexander said the conditions in the southern part of the state made such an impression on the fraternity that they decided to start a GoFundMe page.

“We decided to try and help three families who had lost almost everything,” he said. “One was a family who was raising their grandchildren while the children’s parents were deployed. Another family was a KA sweetheart for our chapter back in 1994, and the last family had lost everything including their vehicles.”

Alexander said the fraternity was able to raise $8,500, exceeding their original goal by $1,000.

Along with the Greek community, several organizations on campus, such as the Muslim Student Association and Student Government Association, have already taken measures to help flood victims rebuild not only their homes, but also their lives.

James Davison, vice president of SGA, traveled to south LA to personally help those affected by the flooding.

“It was tough to see these homes and the lives that were wrecked by the water,” he said.

Davison said although it was emotionally difficult to see the damage that was done, the people affected were tougher than this natural disaster.

“We talked to lots of people who are tired and worn out from working, but they are some of the most resilient folks

I’ve ever met,” he said. “These people are hurting and we need to help in whatever way we can and recognize how strong their spirit is.”

President Les Guice said many Tech alumni have contacted the university about their diplomas being destroyed in the flood. The university has has given the alumni new diplomas free of charge with the exact signatures their original diplomas had.

“A lot of our students were impacted by that,” Guice said. “And a lot of our friends, alumni and others were too, so we know that there is a role for all of us to play.”

The school library at Denham Springs Elementary lost its entire inventory in the flood.  – Photo courtesy of Dehnam Springs Elementary School

The school library at Denham Springs Elementary lost its entire inventory in the flood. – Photo courtesy of Dehnam Springs Elementary School

Guice said the university is trying to find the best way to help the flood victims.

“There is still an ongoing need,” he said. “You don’t recover from these things from the short term. We know they are going to continue to have needs. And that is where I think we will be looking – what we can do to help and help sustain them for the long-term. We can engage a lot of people to provide some support, but we want to do it in ways that will be impactful for those that were affected.”

While South Louisiana has been given extensive help, Bryce said, it is a long way from being back to what it was.

“It’s gonna take a while for us to get back on our own feet,” he said. “It’s going to be a long road, but at the same time it’s been very pleasing to see how quickly we have been able to recover at this point. I can definitely say I come from a community of people that aren’t willing to back down and aren’t willing to give up.”

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