‘Taking it Day By Day': Months of Recovery Ahead for Louisiana Flood Victims

The McClartys' story is multiplied by thousands

Richard McClarty stands in his gutted Baton Rouge home, drenched in sweat, speckled with white dust from sweeping drywall remnants off the floor.

"We're just taking it day by day right now," he says in the home he abandoned with his wife Wagner and son Eddie. 

They left August 13 as the flood water invaded their garage and lapped at their front door. "I carried my son through the water," McClarty recalls.

He estimates the flood water was about 3 ½ feet deep at the time, and that neighbors had to be rescued by boat amid the chaos.

Thousands were displaced in the storms, and at least 13 died. A federal disaster was declared for 20 Louisiana parishes, which President Barack Obama visited this week and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump visited the week before.

Volunteer 'Muck' Squads Help Flood Victims Clean to Rebuild

The McClarty family found a hotel to stay in, then hopped from one to another over the past dozen days, all the while beginning the clean-up process.

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"We pretty much lost probably about 75 percent of our things," he explained matter-of-factly as he looked around his home. 

The McClartys' story is multiplied by thousands. Homeowners must take everything out of their homes, tear out dry wall and insulation, rip up carpeting, wood flooring, tile, cabinets — everything must go. The work needs to be quick so that mold doesn't take over the house.

Piles of people's lives line streets for miles and miles. About 120 homes are in the McClarty's subdivision. Richard says nearly every home took on some amount of water. A sofa with the tags still on was in a pile next door to the McClartys' home. Brand new, now trash.

About 2,500 people are still in shelters across Louisiana from flooding. NBC10.com’s Sara Smith tells how people are finding even more bad news as they return to their homes.

Wagner said the mold was already thick in the bottom cabinets, but when you stand in the gutted home, you don't smell the water, mold or dampness. There's a constant hum of fans, dehumidifiers and the air conditioning. If you didn't know the house was flooded, you might think they were doing some strange renovation. 

"It's pretty dried out," McClarty said. It's going to take months to get the home to a liveable state, and that's his goal right now.

The McClartys' home isn't in a flood zone, so they didn't have flood insurance. They will have to rely on federal money for any amount of help in the rebuilding process. Such is the case for thousands of the homes that were underwater.

Louisiana Flooding McClarty Front Yard
A view from the McClarty family's front yard.

"This has never happened here," McClarty said, adding that neighbors have lived in the neighborhood for 52 years and they have never been flooded.

The family has been getting help from co-workers from the NRG Energy plant where Richard works, members of the family's church congregation and volunteers from Team Rubicon, an organization made up of veterans and first responders who help following disasters with clean-up.

"We appreciate all the help we have gotten, but we still have a whole lot of work to do," McClarty said.

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