Homeowners, Businesses Ponder How to Deal With Flood Damage


With up to $150,000 in flood damage to his southeast Louisiana car repair shop and no flood insurance, Lap Nguyen wasn’t sure how he was going to repair his life.

He’s spent the past few days cleaning out Gonzales Car Care 20 miles southeast of Louisiana’s capital, and hadn’t thought about the next step.

“I didn’t go check with the bank yet. We did come to clean up the floods,” he said in a telephone interview.

Like thousands of other south Louisiana residents, he had to deal with the malodorous muck left after torrential downpours swamped drainage systems, including rivers and streams.

The floodwaters that killed at least 13 people are slowly falling, giving way to the hard slog of cleaning out, rebuilding, or just finding somewhere to live.

An estimated 60,000 homes have been damaged, but assessments are continuing so the number may change, Mike Steele, spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said Saturday afternoon. He said 102,000 people have registered for federal help.

For the first time since the flooding started, state offices opened Monday in all parishes, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said Saturday.

Some homes flooded up to their eaves. Nguyen’s shop got two feet of water – but it got into compressors, diagnostic computers, and other electrical and electronic machinery.

His estimate of the dollar value: “At least over $100,000, easy. Maybe around $150,000.”

Four miles away in Sorrento, Giovanni DeCarlo needed a boat to get his mother-in-law’s clothes, linens, mementos and curtains out of her house trailer. It was on blocks about 41/2 to 5 feet high, but still took on about 11/2 feet of water, he said.

With 31/2 feet of water still on the ground, he put Laura Allbritten’s belongings into heavy plastic bags, and then into the boat. Another family member was dealing with the flood-inflicted heaps of laundry, he said.

Allbritten, 59, is staying with another daughter and the daughter’s husband and son in Ponchatoula.

She’s lived in the trailer for 22 years, she said. “That’s 20 years of housekeeping you’ve got to move out before you can begin repairs,” she said.

The trailer itself is 30 years old. “The cost to repair it will probably be greater than what it’s worth,” she said.

She has flood insurance, but doesn’t know what it will pay, or when the adjuster will be by.

“They tell me three to five days. … Because of the volume of customers in the area, it could take a week or two.”

In nearby St. Amant, about 20 relatives and coworkers were helping Sheila Siener muck out her house, removing furniture, appliances, carpets and wallboard.

“It’s much worse than I expected,” she said. “The water, the dirt, the smell. Water in the cabinets. Everything’s filthy. I’ve never been through a flood, so I really didn’t know.”

In other areas the water is still high enough to cause concern. In Lake Arthur, pumps and sandbags were keeping floodwaters out of the town of 2,700 in southwest Louisiana. Residents may not be able to return until midweek, officials said.

(Janet McConnaughey reported from New Orleans.)

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