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Flooding hits the state

March 24, 2016

PAYTON POTTER


Staff Reporter| jpp017@latech.edu

Vanessa Katz woke up on the morning of March 8 to find inches of water creeping into her North Monroe home. She scrambled to find her four cats, but only managed to get two into her car before fleeing to higher ground. Safely in her hotel room, Vanessa Katz booked an Airbnb vacation home in Monroe where she has lived since shortly after the flooding.

Vanessa’s daughter, Sarah Katz, said her first trip to her mother’s flooded home was to save important items.

“We went back on March 11 and got another cat,” said Sarah Katz, a junior secondary education social studies major. “When we went in, there was probably about two feet (of water) in the house. We got out all of the pictures; we got out all of our passports and birth certificates — the important paperwork. My dad passed away about eight years ago, and he was a vet. We were able to get his flag out and we were able to get all of his records out.”

When Sarah and Vanessa Katz returned for her fourth cat, they found even more water in the home.

“We waited a few days and went back again this past Sunday,” Sarah Katz said. “It had risen about a foot, so it was about three feet then. We got as much as we could. My mom went back on Monday and she found the other cat. She told me the water had risen even higher than it was on Sunday. I would say it is about four feet inside the house now.”

Ruston escaped the storm with less damage than surrounding areas, but areas in northeastern Ruston had to evacuate some of their citizens due to the region’s low elevation.

Taylor Mack said Ruston found refuge from the storms thanks to a difference in elevation in Ruston.

“The flooding was nothing like Monroe, where there are places still underwater,” said Mack, an associate professor of geography. “The main reason is — we’re in the highlands of Louisiana.”

norris road 3-9-16 copyMack said Monroe lies almost 300 feet lower than Ruston.

“Monroe is on the low side, and they’re only about 72 feet above sea level. We’re somewhere around 300 to 345 or so feet (above sea level).”

In addition to the low-lying lands of Monroe, Mack said the city’s paved surfaces also played a role in the floods.

“When you have a city, a built up area, all the concrete, all the houses, all the asphalt block the ground from soaking up water,” he said. “Being a bigger city than Ruston, they get more runoff than we do. They have all of the ground covered with man-made objects. The faster the water runs off, the more likely you are to get flooding.”

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Louisiana Tech fared well during the floods compared to surrounding universities said Sam Wallace, the assistant vice president of administration and facilities.

“We were very fortunate compared to Grambling and the University of Louisiana at Monroe and a lot of people that have residencies,” he said. “Everywhere you turn in north Louisiana, you are going to find someone who was impacted.”

Wallace said the most costly damage on Tech’s campus was related to equipment damaged by water.

“There is an elevator in Bogard Hall, and parts of the elevator systems are below grade level in the basement,” he said. “We had water that made it into the pit where the hydraulics and scavenger pumps are. That is our most expensive item. We have not bid it yet, but the estimate from the company that does our elevator maintenance is $19,000. When you take our labor cost and take the cost of the elevator, we’re probably dealing with a loss ranging from $20-30,000.”

Tech is petitioning the state for relief funding, but homeowners like Vanessa Katz do not get the same luxury.

Sarah Katz said her mother did not qualify for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, so Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at Tech is helping raise funds for her.

“My boyfriend is a PIKE, and they asked me if they would be okay with them doing Pitch for PIKE and donating for my mom,” she said. “That’s on April 2. I talked to my mom about it and she said ‘that’s going to help me sleep easier at night.’”

Sarah Katz said the money from Pitch for PIKE, an annual softball tournament hosted by PIKE, will help her mother furnish the rental home she will soon move into.

“We got everything that was irreplaceable, but trying to furnish an entire house is pretty expensive,” she said. “I’m thankful for them.”

Although her home is still flooded, Sarah Katz said she and her mother are fortunate.

“I still think we’re lucky,” she said. “We weren’t injured; no one was hurt. My mom is going to be out a lot of money, but people have stepped up. We’re lucky to have some amazing people in our lives who are willing to help us. It could be a lot worse.”norris road 3-9-16 copynorris road 3-9-16 copy

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