Freshman makes his way through flooded Louisiana

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Madina Seytmuradova

Variety Editor

“When I woke up, everything was flooded,” said Desmond Young, a freshman undeclared major from Austin, Texas. “I was like ‘whoa!’ I know we have to be in Louisiana, ’cause it can’t just flood like this everywhere.”

Young and his family left for Troy from Austin on Saturday morning. By that time, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries had already reported 491 people and 110 animals rescued from the flood.

Still, the Youngs took the same route to Troy they’d taken a month earlier for Impact, Troy’s orientation. Young said he didn’t see any rain the last time they traveled and wasn’t expecting complications on the road.

By Saturday afternoon, when the Youngs’ van reached Baton Rouge on Interstate 12, Louisiana was saturated with an average of 20 inches of rain. Even on Friday, the day before, the Atlantic Magazine reported a record downpour causing the Tickfaw River north of New Orleans to rise to a record 18 feet in the span of just 12 hours.

When Young woke up, the family van was crossing a flooded bridge.

“My mom was freaking out, and I was just in the backseat putting it on my Snapchat, and my dad was driving and we ended up getting through that,” he said. “I don’t know how high the water was, but we had to go pretty slow so that the van wouldn’t stall out.”

They made it out and headed for an exit, which turned out to be flooded as well.

Young said his father then headed to the exit. “He was speeding through the exit, and when we hit the water it was pretty much over. The van stopped working.”

With the help of a couple of locals, the family pushed the car to O’Neal Lane, where there was no water. According to Young, the water was up to his hip as they were pushing the car out of the exit.

As evening fell, the family decided to wait out the night in a nearby hotel. The power in the nearest hotel was out, so they decided to book a room in a La Quinta hotel across the street, despite the street being flooded.

“I wasn’t really worried or scared or anything,” said Young about his experience. “They said it was from the rain. That’s how the water got there, so I knew it wasn’t a hurricane or anything.” Young said that his biggest concern while crossing the flooded street to reach the hotel was the large number of spiders in the water. “I don’t really do spiders, and they were like water spiders and they were pretty big, so I was just kind of freaked out about it.”

They pushed the car to a nearby gas station and made trips through the water to bring Young’s possessions to the hotel room.

The hotel’s first floor was flooded, prompting Young to record the uncommon sight.

Young said the family planned on staying the night, but were instead evacuated by a rescue crew. “We could only grab the important stuff we needed. I only grabbed a pair of clothes and a pair shoes, and we had to go on boats.”

By Sunday morning, when the Youngs left the hotel with the rescue crew, the national Federal Emergency Management Agency’s morning briefing had reported over 2,500 homes impacted by the flood, “70 roads closed due to high water including portions of I-10, I-12 and I-55 near Baton Rouge,” “31 shelters open with 2,856 occupants (ARC Midnight Shelter Count, 6:54 am EDT)” and one confirmed fatality just in Louisiana.

“There were a lot of people,” Young said about the shelter. “It was a high school, and they had us in one gym. If you had like pets and dogs, then you were sheltered in the other gym.”

Young’s aunt who lives in New Orleans picked him and his parents up and took them to her house for the night. Later that morning, the Youngs continued their journey in a rental car and reached Troy that night. It was by then that “the federal government declared a major disaster for Louisiana … setting in motion the availability of several types of assistance for residents affected by floods in the parishes of Tangipahoa, St. Helena, East Baton Rouge and Livingston,” according to The Times-Picayune.   

Young said that people in the Troy community hearing about his journey helped him replace the clothes that were left behind in the hotel room in Baton Rouge. “It’s still flooded right now. They said it might take like four to five days for it to go down. Whenever it goes down, my aunt and mom and dad are supposed to go back and go get my stuff,” he said. “A lot of people’s houses and stuff are gone,” he added, showing the videos he shot in Baton Rouge.

Check out the Tropolitan’s Facebook page for some of the Youngs’ video footage.

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