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Volunteers help LA residents after severe weather blankets state

I don’t think you ever get used to [flooding]... You never know what it’s like until it hits you directly. -- Claudia Boudreaux

Eunice resident Lorenza Attle woke up in early January to water everywhere. It surrounded her raised trailer and seeped in, soaking her carpet and walls to a depth of more than two inches. Attle had never seen water like this and was terrified.

Strong rain throughout the night provided residents little warning to the floodwater they’d see at daylight. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God, where did all this water come from?’” said Attle, whom along with her Tambour Lane neighbors were evacuated by firefighters on a boat.

Red Cross volunteers were in her neighborhood Jan. 18 after the flood waters receded. They were conducting preliminary damage assessments, distributing clean-up kits and tarps and providing drinking water and snacks as needed.

The volunteers’ efforts, however, began before the slow-moving storm front dumped continuous inches of rain – and spawned tornadoes – across the state starting Jan. 9. The system caused significant damage, especially in Acadiana. It also left communities flooded in Southwest Louisiana’s Iowa and in Central and North Louisiana, tornado damage in East Baton Rouge Parish and even minor flooding on the Northshore’s Tangipahoa Parish.

Attle was sucking water out of the carpets and airing out her home when the Red Cross volunteers came through the neighborhood. None of the residents had seen flooding like that before; the landlord had not seen such flooding in that area in her 30 years of owning the property.

Attle was among the more than 400 residents across the state who received clean-up kits and tarps. Red Cross volunteers also served nearly 1,800 snacks and bottled water.

“Once again we’ve seen our Red Cross family from outside the area come here to help us in Acadiana,” said Tony Credeur, community chapters executive for the Red Cross. “We appreciate their support.”

As community needs developed because of new storms and draining bayous and waterways, the volunteers’ response changed as well. They have been working closely with government partners at all levels, as well as partner nonprofits that unite to meet such disaster-caused needs.

“The Red Cross has been coordinating with emergency officials and local community partners to help residents impacted by floods, winds and tornadoes get back on their feet,” said Norma Cortez Crowder, deputy director of response operations in south Louisiana.

Among the 80 volunteers assisting throughout the state were Claudia and Bobby Boudreaux of Franklin, La., who recently served along the East Coast in response to Superstorm Sandy.

As they did in New Jersey, the Boudreauxs distributed supplies from a custom Red Cross vehicle. “I like it because you get out in the community, talk with people, see the area,” Claudia Boudreaux said.

In Eunice, many of the residents they assisted had never faced a flood before and didn’t know about the recovery process.

“I don’t think you ever get used to [flooding],” Claudia Boudreaux said. “You think it’s never going to happen you. And, really, you never know what it’s like until it hits you directly.”

The Boudreauxs said much of their help is through listening and offering guidance, such as information on how to jumpstart their recovery.

“In some small way, maybe we … touched them. You know, as they say, a hug goes a long way,” Claudia Boudreaux said.

The Boudreauxs have served with the Red Cross for the past three years in Louisiana and across the country.

Bobby Boudreaux said he likes volunteering because it can help lift the spirits of people in duress. “They really get down in the dumps,” he said. “And you give them a little courage. When you’re in need, it’s hard to say you need help.”