Louisiana Rising: Flooding leaves East Baton Rouge Parish with ghost towns

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - One year after the historic flood, many people's road to recover is still uncertain.

In some places, that doubt is enough to swallow up entire neighborhoods.

It's difficult to imagine neighborhoods as nice as Centurion Place have now turned into somewhat of a ghost town.

Construction debris, mobile housing units and dumpsters now line the streets of this once thriving subdivision. Parts of this neighborhood received nearly five feet of water.

Longtime Centurion Place residents Robin and Larry Kelly were the last ones to evacuate.

"At that point, I was lost," said Larry Kelly. "I mean I've never been so confused in my life. You couldn't get a hotel room because everything was packed by then."

The pair headed to Lafayette to rest their heads and escape the rising water.

"When we left, we drove to Breaux Bridge and stayed at a Holiday Inn Express by Landrys," said Robin Kelly. "The owner of the Holiday Inn Express paid for every flood victim's food. We were so impressed and grateful."

They were the last ones to go but the first to come back. In fact, it took them two months from beginning to end to move back into their home.

"We went out of here on August 13 about 10:30 in the morning, something like that; 61 days later, we were back in this house with it rebuilt," Kelly added.

They worked hard to get back in that soon, but the Kellys had an advantage. Larry is a residential and commercial contractor by trade and the Kellys chose not to make any modifications or additions to their 12-year-old home.

While the Kellys are settled back in, they can't say the same for most of their neighbors.

"A lot of them sitting there still confused as to where to start, how to do it. A lot of them just don't have the money because they didn't have the insurance. FEMA helped them out some," Kelly explained.

"Several of our neighbors are still sitting. Not even rebuilding," Robin Kelly added.

A drive through the neighborhood is a stark contrast now than it was just one year ago.

"Just driving through here, we still got 8 or 10 trailers up here," Larry Kelly said.

The city-parish, state, nor FEMA tracks data on how many homeowners are still working on their home. Local realtors said this information is hard to track and it could take years to figure out who will be coming home or who will just walk away. So, what does that mean for residents like the Kellys, who are living in their homes?

"It's very jarring and now they've got a couple of houses for lease. You don't know who's going to lease that house. It changes the whole neighborhood because rental houses usually don't fare as well as people who have lived there," Robin Kelly explained.

Property value and safety become a concern. It makes the Kellys wonder if their neighbors even plan on rebuilding or moving back.

All he knows is that they worked sunrise to sunset for one purpose - to be home again.

"I'm glad to be here and we learned a lot from this thing. I hope it comes back to be one of the great little subdivisions in the country again. It was good, but it will be a long time," Larry Kelly said.

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