The perfect storm: A house takes in the lake it was built to overlook
It was their dream home. Their forever home. The kids-are-gone-and-we-will-retire-here home perched up high, overlooking the lake in White Oak Landing subdivision. Mark and Marianne McIntyre moved into their abode right after Hurricane Katrina hit south Louisiana, and it has weathered a number of storms since then. But they weren’t counting on the flood of 2016.
“I would always joke with my friends that if this house floods, all of Baton Rouge has gone under water,” says Marianne, noting the height at which their home was built. “Well, that ended up being true.”
On the morning of Saturday, August 13, Marianne and Mark looked out their back windows, through the rain, and saw that water was slowly rising toward their outdoor kitchen—a kitchen that is positioned significantly lower than the house, right next to the lake. They went outside and put the barstools on the countertops, then took off the cabinet doors and placed them on top of the barstools. Just in case.
“I wasn’t sure these precautions were even necessary,” says Marianne. “And I certainly never considered that it would come all the way up into our house. We are high.”
One of their neighbors—a Katrina transplant from New Orleans—came over mid-morning, gave Marianne a big hug and offered her help if needed. She also cautioned her to not wait until it was too late. Marianne still didn’t think she would need the help. Then, at 2 p.m., she opened the door to find other neighbors standing on her threshold. They were there to pack her up.
“Within 30 minutes, my house was filled with at least 15 people,” says Marianne. “They were rolling up my carpets, pinning up my drapes with clothespins and carrying what furniture they could upstairs. We put a sofa on an island in the kitchen, and another silk sofa that I wanted to save on a table in the keeping room.”
The McIntyres went to bed upstairs on Saturday evening, creating a walking path between all the downstairs items now in upstairs storage. They guessed that if they flooded, it would be by just a few inches. If they missed flooding, it would be by just a few inches. The storm raged on and they went to sleep. When Marianne woke up at 6 a.m., she walked down the stairs and saw that water had reached the third interior step. Two feet of water filled her downstairs. She looked out the back windows and saw that the lake had enveloped her house. Water, with a rushing current, was everywhere.
“I sat down on the stairs and had a meltdown,” says Marianne. “Mark came and got me, took me back upstairs and said, ‘Just let it all out. But I promise you that it will all be OK and we will get this house back.’ Of course, we are really so fortunate. Lives were spared. It was just an overwhelming moment.”
Outside, the water reached up to the ceiling fans on the outdoor kitchen. Their outdoor furniture had
floated away. Because the cellular network was down, they couldn’t reach their son and daughter in Hammond to tell them that they were all right. And their front yard became a boat launch staging area for others stranded. They were days without electricity and no place to go, so they stayed upstairs until the water receded. Then they got to work. They ripped out the walls four feet up, they cleaned out all the cabinets and moved out all the furniture to storage units.
“Mark found a dead perch in the living room,” says Marianne. “We took a picture for the grandkids.”
Today, the McIntyres are staying with their daughter in Hammond while their house is being redone. Mark, a commercial developer, drives in to Baton Rouge every day for work and to check on the house. Like everyone else who flooded, they are very concerned about mold and the moisture content, and they are determined to rebuild this house well. They are taking it slow.
“My friends have said that now is a great time for me to make changes to my house,” says Marianne. “But, really, I loved my house just as it was. I didn’t want to change anything. We are basically going to keep everything the same.”
Mark found seven of the eight cabinet doors to the outdoor kitchen by circling the lake, looking around the banks and checking out the backyards of others. He got a call from a neighbor who found the McIntyres’ outdoor Adirondack cypress furniture in the branches of his tree, six feet above ground. The duo is on a waiting list for cabinets for their interior kitchen, and they aren’t expected to get them installed until January.
“We are at a place where we can breathe now,” says Marianne. “Now it’s just a waiting game. The flood affected so many people, and it’s going to take a long time for everyone to rebuild.”