Victims gradually leave River Center as GM recalls flooding experience

River Center manager speaks about flooding
Source: Michael Day
Source: Michael Day
Source: Michael Day
Source: Michael Day

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - By the evening of Sunday, September 4, less than 540 residents remained sheltered at the Baton Rouge River Center.

Each one has an incredible story of survival during the flooding to tell. The man who normally runs the River Center is no different.

Like so many, Baton Rouge River Center's general manager, Michael Day, thought his home would stay dry during the torrential downpour that flooded the metro area. In less than 24 hours however, he and his family were taking refuge on the one high spot in their neighborhood, a balcony in their subdivision's club house. It took a National Guard rescue to get them out.

"We decided that we'd hop on the National Guard truck, we'll get out of the community, we'll go downtown, we'll get to the River Center for the night and we'll be fine, but we almost didn't make it out on the National Guard truck either," said Day.

Unfortunately, the Days wouldn't make it that far. After the truck nearly lost its bearing in the high water, Day and the other evacuees were taken to a shelter at Hebron Baptist Church in Denham Springs. Hundreds were already there, supplies were limited, and the water was still rising.

"We basically spent that night in the sanctuary, hunkered down," said Day.

On Sunday morning, as plans were being laid to open the shelter at the River Center, a plan to evacuate the church was underway as well. A National Guard helicopter landed to transport the evacuees to a better location.

However, the choppers could only hold about a dozen people at a time. Day estimated there were 500 people at the church, so the rescues were a slow process that soon had everyone restless. Day says he stepped in to help keep everyone calm and organized, getting those with the most need out first. The rescue process took all day.

As the first evacuees entered the River Center, the final groups were being driven out of Hebron Baptist in high water vehicles.

"Those whole two days, it's like a horror movie, but you're in it. You can't just grasp what it is you're going through. The great thing is there were so many people helping each other out. The positive spirit of people in the worst of times was fantastic," said Day.

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