On Friday, August 12th, 2016, a combination of “deep, tropical moisture” along with low pressure near the earth’s surface hovered over the southeastern part of Louisiana, and the rains came. Heavy rains began to fall over the area at the start of the weekend, saturating it with up to 10 inches of water, and by Saturday, things only got worse. By the time the disastrous weekend was over, rainfall accumulations totaled 20 inches of rain – almost 30 in some areas.
The devastation was so great that by the 14th of August the governor of Louisiana declared a state of emergency. Once the damage was amassed, it was believed that over 146,000 homes, and business structures, were lost in the devastating floods. Over 30,000 Louisiana residents were evacuated from their homes, many seeking refuge in shelters. Throughout the month, service and religious organizations rushed to help clear away damaged homes and rebuild the broken state.
Multi-Pak owner, JT McWilliams, and other Multi-Pak staff accompanied their local church, and nearly 5,000 fellow church members from all over the southeast, on a service mission to Hammond, Louisiana over Labor Day weekend. The organization of such an army of volunteers was impressive.
Crews consisting of 10-12 individuals were formed and reported each morning at 8:00 am to a central command center to receive work assignments. The work assignments were created from the phone calls that victims placed to a disaster relief hotline. The crews would receive assignments for two separate locations each day. They would begin at the first location and work until the project was completed, or until 5:00 pm. If they finished the first assignment, they would move on to the second. Based on the degree of devastation it was impossible for any crew to complete more than two assignments in a day, and some spent multiple days on just one assignment.
The daily workload consisted of a variety of tasks to clear out damaged materials in houses and prepare for the rebuilding of the area. Crews would rip up warped and sodden contents from inside the homes, placing it on the streets for garbage truck removal. In most cases, the entire contents of the homes had to be thrown away, including furniture, bedding, clothing, and personal items such as photographs, financial records, and others documents.
After clearing furniture, personal items, mud, and other debris from the homes, the crew would begin a complete demolition of the home’s interior, tearing it down to the studs. All carpet, padding, drywall, insulation, and nails were ripped out so the inside of the structure could dry and be ready for future renovations.
With temperatures in the 90’s, and humidity to match, the work was nasty and grueling, but everyone involved said that the camaraderie and sense of community that was developed between volunteers and victims alike made for a rewarding and worthwhile experience.