The Great Flood of 2016 through the eyes of Ben Smith

Denham Springs, LA – It had been raining for what seemed like all week. It’s hard to install windows or glass in the rain, so I was busy helping family and friends who had been affected by the flash flooding, and preparing the homes of people who we knew were going to flood in the coming days.
Like so many others, I never thought my home would be one of them. We just built our house two years ago and weren’t required to have flood insurance. In my mind, we would be fine, but there were a lot of other people who were going to be affected. I spent all of Thursday and Friday, sunup to sundown, helping people move stuff in the rain. It never stopped raining!
I woke up Saturday morning, August 13, 2016, before dawn to start doing boat rescues for people who had contacted me just north of Denham. We spent most of the morning unexpectedly getting my parents out and safely to my house, and rescuing people around Don Avenue Church. It felt great to be able to help and make a difference in these peoples’ lives during their time of need.
The whole time I was thinking that I would eventually end up at my dry house at some point. My nephew and I finished up some boat rescues and were bringing three strangers to a shelter when we noticed around 50 people congregated under the drive thru window at the Whitney Bank. Most of them had nothing but a small bag of possessions and the clothes on their backs. With nowhere for them to go it just killed me, and I wanted to help them all but didn’t know how.
glassguruThat’s when I noticed a familiar face in the crowd. It was a man I had seen at church over the past few months, but I only officially met him the day before when he spent his whole day helping move another friend from church who we knew was going to flood. Mr. Dave was fairly new to the area and, like so many others, didn’t expect to flood, and he had just lost everything and had nowhere to go. He was in shock and disbelief.
We brought him, his wife, their neighbor, and their dogs to our house. By the time we got home, it was getting hard to navigate the roads of Denham Springs. Within a couple hours of being home, we noticed that the water in our streets was rising quickly. We walked down the street to check on some family and by the time we left their house, the water was rising so fast that you could literally watch it move down the street. Within a few minutes, their home began taking on water. That’s when we knew we were going to flood. They came to our house because we have a bonus room upstairs. We began getting calls from other friends in the neighborhood needing a dry place to stay so we said, “come on!”
The water entered our house sometime Saturday afternoon. Eventually, we had no power and about 14 inches of water rushing through our home along with 33 people, including 13 kids, 5 dogs, and 2 tortoises! I remember stopping and saying, “Lord what have you gotten me into? We can’t take care of all these people?” And it was then that the men got together in my driveway and held hands in the knee deep current and cried out for His protection, His strength, His guidance and direction. You know it’s easy to say I trust you Lord, may your will be done Lord, but when your house starts flooding and it seems like your whole world around you is going crazy, that’s when you really need to believe that God is in control, and you have to trust in him. Our prayer in the driveway that afternoon, with the muddy water rushing by, was that He would be glorified! Throughout the whole ordeal, these verses kept coming to mind: “When you pass through the waters I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.” – Isaiah 43:2; and “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5.
Having no cell phone service was tough. There were many of our family and friends who were concerned for the people at our house, and we weren’t able to update them on our status. Even though the current in our front yard was unbelievable, the first boat arrived Sunday afternoon. We were happy to see them, so I let the fact that they hit my mailbox with their boat slide. Boats continued to arrive throughout the day. Some were driven by friends and others by strangers (members of the Cajun Navy). By Sunday night, 20 of our group of 33 were able to evacuate and somehow make it to Baton Rouge and reunite with other family and friends that had not flooded.
Monday night the water finally started going down enough for the last people at our house to leave. That was when I went to check on my office and shop. It had received at least 6 feet of water. When I got there it still had close to 5 feet. The Glass Guru lost three trucks, our whole office, shop, computers, files, everything. It was tough. But like I’ve told so many people, “Whatcha gonna do? It’s life. Suck it up; there are a whole lot of people who are worse off than us in this world. We’ve got our health, we’ve got each other, and we’ll be ok!”
I’m a guy who enjoys my free time. I must say there wasn’t a whole lot of free time in the following five months. We lived in our upstairs bonus room for the next one and a half months before moving back downstairs. We bought mattresses to put on the floor and moved back into our house even though we didn’t have doors, counters, finished cabinets or much furniture.
glassguru2When we weren’t working to restore our business, we were working on our house. Needless to say, the demand for glass replacement and entire window replacement became tremendous. We have been quite busy and blessed. I feel a moral obligation to keep our prices where they were before the flood. It’s nice to truly help people by replacing their windows and offering them a great service and product at a great price. It’s been rewarding to see people get new windows from us because it’s like giving their house a face lift and, at the same time, it puts them one step closer to getting back in their homes.
It’s been over five months, and I’m quoting windows every day for people who are just now getting their insurance money, or their houses have been gutted but they haven’t been able to start rebuilding. It’s going to be a long recovery for so many people. So many, like me, did not have flood insurance, and my federal government didn’t exactly come through in the clutch when we needed them. Many people are stuck having to take out loans to rebuild, or put the process on hold until they’re able to pay for reconstruction. The financial aspect of this flood has affected our entire community.
One positive thing that I can say about The Great Flood of 2016 is that it has brought so many people together. People now know neighbors that they never knew before. Sharing food, building supplies, contractors, survival stories, etc… There are so many good people here. I couldn’t imagine living and running a business anywhere else!