L a PLACE — Curbside piles of waterlogged carpet, sofas, mattresses and other household belongings began to mount Friday in neighborhoods across LaPlace as historic floodwaters from Hurricane Isaac slowly receded.
The pile of debris — including a treadmill, stereo and numerous sheets of soaked wallboard — outside of Joseph and Harriet Miranda’s Shearwater Drive home in the Indigo Estates subdivision off U.S. 51 was 6 feet high by late Friday afternoon.
“Starting over at this age just sucks,” Harriet Miranda, 57, said as she surveyed the damage inside her home. “Thank God we have insurance, and thank God we survived.”
“Been here 22 years and never flooded,” Joseph Miranda, 59, added.
The Mirandas’ home took on 14 inches of water when Isaac shoved a storm surge out of Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas into St. John the Baptist Parish. The couple had to be rescued by boat Wednesday because the water came up so fast.
The Mirandas pledged to rebuild their home and remain there. Other LaPlace residents made the same “I’m staying” promise, while others reported they are “out of here” or “on the fence.”
“This is home. What are you going to do?” Harriet Miranda asked. “We ain’t going nowhere. We’re going to redo it.”
Brent Cumpsten, 42, drove a yellow “Garage Sale” sign into the ground next to discarded cabinets, sofas and mattresses in his yard on Somerset Drive in the River Forest subdivision.
“I make light of everything,” Cumpsten, who has lived on Somerset for 12 years, said of the sign. “But if someone makes an offer ...”
Cumpsten, who cut a hole in his roof at the height of the rising water, said he is in the “staying” category. His house sustained 16 inches of floodwater.
“I’m going to use the (insurance) money to put this thing back together,” he said. “That’s why we have insurance. It’s a hassle, but you live with it.”
Benny and Pat Robichaux , live across the street from Cumpsten and said they will not let Isaac chase them away.
“If you make decisions in a panic based on a catastrophe, you’re going to make a bad decision,” Benny Robichaux, 84, said as he and his wife stood on their front porch next to piles of ruined carpet, matting and wood flooring.
Six inches of water got into the Robichauxes’ home of 24 years. It had never flooded. “It never happened in the past,” he said. “ I don’t expect it to happen in the future.”
“We’re going to stay,” Pat Robichaux, 72, stressed as the humming sound of portable gas generators permeated the air. “The work is hard to do, but we’re in pretty good physical condition.”
Mitch Smith, 63, has lived next door to Cumpsten for 12 years and said he will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
He described his post-Isaac life as “a new beginning.” Smith’s home sustained up to 2 feet of water.
“I’ll be here for a while. It will be three or four years before I can retire,” he said. “A lot of people are a whole lot worse than we are. I’m not as much worried about the house as I am 40 years of memories.”
His daughter, Michelle Smith, 39, still had been unable to reach her home on Main Street by Friday afternoon. She was helping her father clean out his house.
“I love my house. If I could pick it up and move it I would,” she said. “It (a flood) could happen anywhere. Mother Nature can do whatever the hell she wants.”
Eileen Callery, 54, saw her flooded Somerset home of 20 years for the first time Friday at lunchtime and observed that “it could have been a helluva lot worse.” The water mark in her house was about a foot high.
“I’m more than likely out of here,” she said. “But looking at the condition of the house, if I had more damage I would be out of here.”
After reflecting for a while, Callery finally said, “On the fence. We’ll just take it one day at a time.”
“It’s only stuff,” she said of her water-wrecked belongings. “You can’t replace your family, your friends or your health.”
St. John the Baptist Parish Councilwoman Jaclyn Hotard, whose district includes all of LaPlace, estimated that 3,300 LaPlace residents had to be evacuated from their homes because of Isaac’s floodwaters. Some were transported to state-run shelters as far away as Shreveport and Alexandria.
Eldora Bolden, 38, a 13-year Somerset resident, said she’s had enough.
“I want to leave Louisiana. I can’t take the water,” she said.
Bolden’s across-the-street neighbor, James Earl Booth Sr., 87, has lived alone since his wife of 59 years passed away nearly three years ago.
“I might start thinking about moving out of here,” he said.
Edwin Watson, whose Cambridge Street home was flooded in the Cambridge subdivision, said LaPlace is where he chooses to live.
“We all pick our place to live. Different places have different catastrophes. We just have to deal with it and make adjustments,” he said.
Darren Coleman said he may leave the hard-hit Cambridge subdivision but he won’t turn his back on LaPlace.
“I love it here,” he said.
“There’s no place like home,” added his 14-year-old daughter, Darenisha.