Figuring out the flood

Figuring out the flood

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It has been nearly three months since the historic flooding in August destroyed or damaged thousands of homes in south Louisiana, but still many homeowners have yet to get an answer about elevating their houses.

"I thought the flood was the HARD part."

The sign posted in Peggy Gonzales' yard in Old Jefferson sums up a sentiment shared by thousands struggling to get back into their homes in the wake of the August flood.

"You knew the water was coming in and you knew the water was going out, and you knew you needed to demo. There were things to do and answers. Now, there's none of that. Uncertainty and the feeling helpless, not having answers, not having help," Gonzales said.

That uncertainty and the lack of help is evident as her home remains gutted nearly three months after the flood. While she has faithfully maintained flood insurance since buying the home in 1992, simply rebuilding is not an option. Her flood insurance rates would skyrocket if she didn't reduce her flood risk.

"When I first moved here, my flood insurance premium was $300 a year. In the proximity of maybe the next two years, it will be that much a month if I don't elevate," Gonzales said.

Soaring flood insurance rates are scary enough, but the cost to elevate her home isn't any better. The price tag would be roughly $150,000 to elevate her home the required 6 feet to get it above base flood elevation.

There's talk of grant money to help people like Ms Peggy elevate, but she has been told it may not be available for another two years.

"Why are we now going to be punished or saddled with insurmountable expenses of elevating, lifting? Use your own words, what you just said. If it is a 1,000-year event and it's not gonna happen in our lifetime, why are we doing this?" questioned Gonzales.

She brings us to a key point. With all of the talk about a 1,000-year rain or 1,000-year flood, does that mean we shouldn't expect to see the type of rain we got in August for another 1,000 years? In simple terms, the answer is no.

Phrases like 100-year rain or 1,000-year rain are easier ways of talking about statistical probabilities. A 100-year rain has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year, while a 1,000-year rain has a 0.1 percent chance of occurring in a given year.

Think of it this way -- the odds of rolling back-to-back 'snake eyes' with a pair of dice is roughly 1-in-1000, or a 0.1 percent chance. Those are the same odds of a 1,000-year rain occurring.

If you happen to roll back-to-back 'snake eyes' today, the chances of rolling back-to-back snake eyes tomorrow will still be 0.1 percent. So, the next 1,000-year rain could occur next year, in 100 years, or even thousands of years from now.

Through all of the heartache, the loss of her home where she raised two children, and the loss of almost every material item she owned, it seems to be a sense of normalcy that Ms. Peggy craves more than anything else.

"[I would] pretty much give anything to have my boring life from July back, lay right there on the sofa and watch the Tigers play or maybe the Real Housewives of Orange County," lamented Gonzales.

Ms. Peggy urges those who live in a flood zone and had a significant amount of water in August to make sure a FEMA flood assessment is completed on the home before moving forward with repairs. The assessment is key in knowing whether a homeowner will be required to elevate.

Homeowners in East Baton Rouge Parish can check on the status of that assessment by calling 389-3105.

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