The Louisiana Central Railroad has flooded!
On Saturday, August 13th the region I live in suffered a horrific flood. My home (and railroad building) were not in a flood zone (well, at least not before that fateful day). However a flood of epic proportions swept thru the area and the house and railroad room found themselves with 15″ of water inside. The river carrying the water has a flood stage somewhere near an elevation of 29 feet. The maximum recorded water level for the area was 44 feet, and this was considered a 100 year event. My house and railroad building are on land with an elevation of 52 feet. Considering the height of the building slab, and the water depth within the buildings, I’m estimating that the water reached an elevation of near 54 feet. Preliminary estimates I’ve heard on the radio say this may be close to a 1000 year event. If only I had been born a century earlier or later!
My first realization that something was awry was about 7:30 that morning. I was about to head out to meet some railroad buddies for our weekly Saturday breakfast, when I noticed that the backyard was almost covered in water. Looking out the front window, I saw the street was under water. I had never seen this in my 21 years in this house, so I immediately starting raising what I could. About 45 minutes later I saw water seeping in the back door, at which time I thought “I better get out of here!”. I pulled the truck out of the garage, but it was too late. I saw a car stalled in the street and the water was already over the door sills. I knew that the rural highway at the end of the street was several feet lower than my street, so knew I had waited too long. I put the truck back in the garage (the highest point on the lot), and waded out to the street. All my neighbors were doing the same thing; we were all caught off guard. Someone said that they heard on the radio that the sheriff’s office had air boats coming out to rescue people. After wading around the center of the road for a while, a couple small boats appeared. They were crewed by young folks and they were trying to rescue people. I scored a ride in an old bass boat and off we went. The water was at about 30″ in the street at this time. When the boat turned at the highway, we were shocked. The houses along the highway already had water from mid window to just under the eaves. I noticed something sticking out of the water and realized that it was the light bar on the top of the police car that my neighbor drives home at night. The car itself was completely submerged. All this water in under two hours!
I returned to the homestead on Tuesday, the 16th. I have been working continuously each day trying to dry out everything. Those that have experienced flooding know what I’m talking about . . . cutting out the sheetrock, removing insulation, removing cabinets, etc., etc. The big enemy here is mold, and it sets in very rapidly.
The railroad room is a mixed bag. The actual layout suffered no damage, just wet benchwork legs. I had managed to pick up tools and really important stuff and stacked things on top of the benchwork. I lost all the materials and less important things. Actually, I was quite lucky to get some important things up in both the house and the train building.
But about the railroad: After I got back to my home, I had been extremely worried about mitigating damage in the train building, as the house had first priority. Late last week four of the fellows from the old C&O operating group in Covington stopped by to see if they could offer some help, Walter Rieger, Sam Urrate, Mike Walsdorf and Johnny Miranda. They cut out and removed all the carpeting in the train room . . . a major piece of work. Thanks guys! Then a few days later my cousins from Hammond came over. Debbie spent time packing my dishes and cookware so I could put them in storage, and Jim went out to the train building. When I checked on him hours later, he had cut out the sheetrock below the layout level and removed all the wet insulation. Another great piece of work complete! Thanks to my cousins. Finally, earlier this week Wayne Robichaux and I went out there and removed the cabinets in the shop and restroom, cut out the sheetrock in that area, and removed the insulation. The immediate remediation in the train room is done, and it’s now drying out. Wayne has been extremely helpful in my recovery. Hopefully in a few days I can spray down the house and train building with the mold killing stuff, then start with the reconstruction.
I don’t have a feel for how long the process will take, as there will be a shortage of contractors due to the HUGE number of people that lost their homes. I feel that I’ll be lucky to get back into my home within 4-6 months.
But the most important thing is that I’m still alive and well. The Lord was with me on that fateful day.