Blake Michaleski of J&M Tackle and American Marine Brokerage is heading to Denham Springs, La., today — the center of Louisiana’s worst flooding during the weekend.
Michaleski is bringing trailers of supplies to residents there, including his sister, brother-in-law and parents, all of whom were displaced from their homes when rising water forced them to evacuate.
“My parents and my sister and brother-in-law, their houses were flooded severely,” Michaleski said from Florida on Monday. “They had 3 to 4 feet of water in each house. Other than cars, and what they could grab, they lost everything. It’s really bad over there. I started this trying to help them.”
Michaleksi figured that if he was already driving some things to his family, he’d put the word out to see whether others wanted to make contributions.
“I’ve gotten almost more than I can handle,” he said. “It’s very touching. People are handing over bags and bags of stuff. I’m doing it because I have to get things to my family, but thought, ‘Let’s take as much as we can.’ It’s not just my neighborhood; it’s really the entire city of Denham Springs.”
Michaleski said there had been a lot of water rescues because many people have bass boats.
“People were launching boats on the interstate on-ramp,” Michaleski said. “Everyone who has a boat down there, they did what they needed to do. They went and checked on neighbors and took them wherever they needed to go. They would use boats to drop them at one spot. Then a truck would take them somewhere else.”
Michaleski’s uncle couldn’t help because his new 24-foot Nautic Star bay boat was washed away. “He has a raised house, and he’d parked it underneath the house,” Michaleski said. “The water rose and it floated up off its trailer.”
The uncle purchased the boat last year from Aqua Marine, a dealership in Denham Springs that was affected by the floods, Michaleski said. Phone calls to the dealership this morning resulted in a busy signal, indicating that the power was still out. Other area dealerships did not answer phones.
Bass Pro Shops in Denham Springs wrote on its Facebook page: “Due to current conditions Bass Pro Shops will be closed Tuesday August 16, 2016. Associates please contact your manager for work plan. Stay safe!!”
Devin Denman was getting ready to go fishing on Saturday morning when he saw on Facebook that people were stuck on roofs or in attics, and that the water was still rising, according to nola.com. So Denman took his flats boat to launch at the Denham Springs Police Department.
The boat was no match for the strong current and the obstructions he hit. Denman had to abandon the boat when it hit a traffic sign and flipped.
Center for Coastal Conservation president Jeff Angers, who lives in Baton Rouge, another area heavily affected by flooding, called the floods a “catastrophe.”
“People [are still] trying to save lives now,” Angers said in an email. “Thousands of normal, middle-class Americans chased from their homes by the highest rain total ever. The disaster continues to unfold, with river crests moving south slowly. Surreal.”
Louisiana was the hardest hit, although flooding reached parts of Michigan, St. Louis and Roanoke, Va.