In Baton Rouge, La., Recovery Efforts Continue After Summer Floods
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
As the end of the year approaches, we've been checking back in with some of the people we talked to in 2016. In August, I toured the flooded streets of southern Louisiana. In just a few days, the area received record rainfall, as much as 20 inches in some places. Houses that were not in a flood zone took on feet of water. When I arrived, my first stop was Christ Community Church, just outside of Baton Rouge. It was a shelter for flood victims, and as the waters receded, volunteers handed out donated supplies and food. Church member Lindy Eisenberg showed me around.
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LINDY EISENBERG: All of this prepared food is being donated either by local restaurants, or we just had a couple of stay-at-home moms who brought in 200 sandwiches. And what we do is either we serve it here as folks are coming in to get supplies. Or we actually just load them up in our vehicles, and we take it out to some of the neighborhoods where people are working.
SHAPIRO: Any idea how many meals a day?
EISENBERG: Oh, my goodness. I would say it's easily in the thousands.
SHAPIRO: Now, more than four months later, Lindy Eisenberg is back on the line with us. Hi, there.
SHAPIRO: First, tell us about what your church is doing these days. Are you still helping people recover?
EISENBERG: Oh, absolutely. We have just within our church alone 117 families who had flooded. And these days, we are doing everything from going in their houses and still helping them. Some people are still demolishing. We're helping rebuild. And we're also even driving as far as Gulfport, Miss., Orange Beach, Fla., to pick up donations of furniture. Or, for example, today my husband's driving to Lafayette, La., to pick up some dog food.
SHAPIRO: I was looking at the weather report in Baton Rouge. It's been down around freezing lately. What are people doing if their homes are gutted?
EISENBERG: Well, they are just bundling up. There - and that's actually one of the best case scenarios - is that they're in their home that's gutted. There are actually people that are in tents. We have - our church family have just been going out and finding some neighborhoods that were heavily hit. And there are literally people living in tents because either FEMA's told them they can't go back in their home. They have a trailer they can't use yet because it's not hooked up. And we are just going out with donated mattresses, donated heaters. You've got everything from that to - a friend of mine who's a schoolteacher is living in her garage right now, which I believe is the one completed room, with her family of six kids and her husband. So...
SHAPIRO: Do these people have been plumbing? Do they have electricity? How are they cooking? I mean, if you live in a tent for four months, what do you do?
EISENBERG: It's everything from using camp stoves and makeshift plumbing. There's a lady that we ran into last week or maybe the week before who - she's in a shed, I believe. And she's actually driving to a store nearby to use the restroom.
SHAPIRO: Your family was leasing a house that was flooded. What is your situation today?
EISENBERG: We are currently in another home that some friends of ours - it's a - it's a family home. We're the only non-family members who have ever lived in it. But we're currently living in a smaller home that's available until we can start building - start rebuilding.
SHAPIRO: And you spent three months...
SHAPIRO: ...Living just in a spare room of friends of yours, right?
EISENBERG: Correct. Yes.
SHAPIRO: When I met you in August, you had been running for days, and there was clearly a lot of adrenaline. Now that some of that has worn off, does it ever just feel overwhelming - the amount that has to be done?
EISENBERG: Oh, daily, daily. It's - and that hasn't - depending on the day, that really hasn't worn off because every day there's something. There's something we're working on. When you have that many people, when you have almost 90 percent of our community who are affected, there is rarely a day where we are not leaving our nine-to-fives and going to somebody's house to help with a sink or to help with - you just never know what you're going to be working with. So it is overwhelming, but we've seen miracle after miracle of just knowing that God's going to continue to provide our needs. And so it's not so much a worry as just a - OK, let's be patient.
SHAPIRO: When do you think things will feel back to normal again?
EISENBERG: (Laughter) That is a loaded question.
EISENBERG: I don't know that my life has ever been normal.
EISENBERG: I honestly don't know. I honestly don't have a good answer for that. We keep saying amongst ourselves our goal every single day when we wake up is just to be obedient today and just to do what needs to be done today. That's really - I don't know. I don't know.
SHAPIRO: Lindy Eisenberg of Baton Rouge, thank you for joining us. Good luck with the recovery. It's good to talk to you again.
EISENBERG: Absolutely. You, too. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.