Gulf Coast survivors find refuge locally

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Two weeks ago, Rudy and Louise Davis journeyed over 700 miles to escape the storm and resulting disaster in the Gulf Coast area.

The Davis family home is in hard-hit Slidell, La., around 25 miles outside New Orleans.

"We lost electricity at 2:30 a.m. on Monday (Aug. 29). We pulled out the radio and listened to the news," said Louise. "Then at 7:25 a.m. gusts of wind took a huge oak tree and two feet of dirt out of the ground and ripped a corner of the house and siding off."

The Davis family endured over eight hours of 150-mile-an-hour wind beneath mattresses inside their home.

"I thought the house was going to blow off the slab with us in it," said Louise. "It was like watching a movie and being in it. We were scared for our lives."

When the wind stopped, the Davis family turned back to the radio, their only form of communication.

"We listened for a few hours at a time. We didn't hear anything about Slidell," said Louise. "We didn't know what was going on. There were four huge trees blocking our driveway."

The Davis home is located on around one and a half acres of land outside Slidell. Before Katrina hit, there were around 100 trees standing on the Davis property. Now there are 13.

"We stayed because we didn't think it would be as devastating as it was," said Louise. "We don't live in a flood zone. We've never had water in our house."

Water rushed into the Davis house several hours after the hurricane had passed.

"It pushed the water from Bayou Liberty into our home," said Louise. "One minute we were standing there with no water, and then it just comes in and there is nothing you can do but stand there."

The water in the Davis house reached six inches before receding. It stood in the home for an hour, ruining around 70 percent of the family's belongings.

Later in the week two young men, searching for their missing parents, ventured into the Davis family's neighborhood. The men used chain saws to cut through the trees blocking the streets and driveways.

"We got one car out," said Louise. "We drove to Baton Rouge an hour and a half away."

In Baton Rouge, the Davis family was able to get a small portion of food and water to take back to their home.

"People were very limited to what they could get because so many were there to get something," said Louise.

Louise called family members Jean and Clyde Davis who live outside Cassville. Jean Davis told Louise to come to Barry County.

On Sept. 1 eight family members including Louise, husband Rudy, daughter-in-law Patrice Ivey, granddaughter Jennifer Ivey, grandson Rudy Ivey, great granddaughter Kristina Hoffman, future grandson-in-law Matthew Hoffmann and Matthew's sister Jessica Hoffmann, left Louisiana for Missouri.

"We left with only $30 because we couldn't use the bank and we had no pay checks for the week," said Louise. "We used our credit cards to get up here where they could help us."

The Davis family arrived in Cassville on Sept. 2.

"The Cassville Motel gave us a very nice rate and were very nice to us," said Louise.

The Red Cross and Salvation Army of Missouri have helped meet many of the Davis family needs. Ramey's Supermarket of Cassville allowed Louise to write a check for needed items although her bank account will be frozen for several months.

Four members of the Davis family received hotel accommodations and show tickets in Branson.

Since leaving Louisiana, the Davis family members have searched the television for missing family members and friends.

"We keep watching the television to see our town," said Louise, "to keep in touch with what's going on down there and see if we can catch a glimpse of missing family."

"All we see on the television is New Orleans," said Patrice. "We have people down there missing and we haven't seen them."

Patrice's sister Denise is among the missing in Chalmette, which was flooded to roof top heights. Red Cross volunteers have kept in touch with Patrice through the telephone. So far there has been no news on Denise.

Although Barry County has been good to the Davis family, they are ready to return to their home. Jennifer Ivey and Matthew Hoffmann will return to college this week.

"Our house is unliveable but we are leaving Thursday," said Louise. "We just have to try to get back to normal. Eventually you have to go back and clean up."

Although businesses around Slidell are still standing, they will not open for some time, said Louise. The Davis family has been told their area could be without electricity for two months.

"We are going to stay in the house when we go back," said Louise. "We will have cases of water and a generator for our refrigerator, and we will take baths in our pool."

The Davises insurance company will only repair outside damages because the family had no flood insurance. Neither the insurance company nor federal assistance will help with tree clean up and removal.

"We are going to buy a chain saw and cut the trees ourselves," said Louise. "It will take four months or more to get the outside cleaned up. I guess we will burn the trees once we have water again."

"I'm just thankful no trees fell on the house," said Louise. "Our house serves the Lord and I felt the Lord served us in return. Whatever the Lord took away. I have my family and that is the only thing that is important."

Although Hurricane Katrina did not force Louise to leave her Louisiana home permanently, she admits she will not stay through another hurricane.

"I heard there will be probably six more hurricanes this season and one could hit New Orleans again," said Louise. "If the hurricane is a category three or above it will take at least the roof. We won't stay again."

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