Leslie is a gentleman I would guess to be in his 70's, who has lived in this home all his life, as well as his parents before him (the house is 99 years old). The home is in Pascagoula, MS, about 1-1/4 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. It has withstood many hurricanes in its time, and water has never come anywhere near it, so when the warnings for Katrina came, Leslie decided to stay in his home with his two little dogs (Talulah, and I can't recall the other one's name). About mid-morning, when the storm surge came, he saw the water coming closer to his house, and he thought about leaving, but by then the water was nearing his car, and he was afraid he wouldn't get far before the car would be swamped. Since he owns one of the very few 2-story homes in the area, he decided he would be OK.
Although the house sits up from the ground about 3 feet, the water started coming in the doors. Leslie started putting things onto the kitchen table, until the legs collapsed. He stacked two chairs to escape the rising water with his dogs. He could hear the water lapping up against the windows. At its peak, the sea water covered his car, and was about 4 feet deep inside the house. He said that when it went back out 4 hours later, he could hear a loud suction noise as the water was sucked back out from under the doors.
Because of the home's construction methods, the interior damage was apparently somewhat less than many other homes, in that he was not required to remove all the wall and flooring material. He did get help from Camp Victor workers to clean and sanitize the floors and walls, and our job was to finish repainting the exterior, where damage was done by the wind-blown salt water. Leslie was still living in a FEMA trailer in his side yard because there was one plumbing connection that needed to be fixed before he would be allowed to move back into the house. We weren't able to do that work, I think because it needed to be a certified plumber to reconnect his kitchen plumbing to the city lines. In the back of the house where the kitchen is, it's open underneath, and something had been swept under the house, knocking out the pipes.
Leslie told me that he had a lot of antiques and a coin collection in a storage unit several blocks away, but it was all destroyed by sitting in the damp for days. He had tried to clean the coins, but the salt water had marked them irreparably. There was also quite a large pile of ceramics molds in his back yard, which were from a business he had before he had heart trouble. He said the molds had been stacked and tarped, awaiting sale, but now they're all knocked around, and the salt water got inside them and pock-marked them, rendering them useless. He's waiting now for the city to agree to haul them away.
Also, he told me that he owns (owned) a little house (like a doll's house, he said) "in town", which I took to mean the actual town of Pascagoula. He had lived in it at some point a number of years ago (I gathered as a young adult). He hadn't been renting it out since moving back to the family homestead because it was "too nice". He said that some time after Katrina, he went to check on this house, and found it a couple lots away; the water had been all the way up the roof, and the house was destroyed. But he still owns the empty lot.
Leslie said that many people he's aware of have become depressed in the aftermath of the storm, and there have been a number of suicides by people who he feels are too proud to seek medical help. He pointed out the other homes across the street, one of which had just been razed finally, and one which was only just now beginning to be cleaned out.
As for us, we got right to work when we arrived (after introducing ourselves to Leslie): Karen and I started putting a 2nd coat of paint on the soffit, walls and pillars of the back porch, while Martin and Duane climbed out the attic window and started working above us on the 2nd floor soffit and fascia.
Meanwhile, Janis and Danica saw that the front porch wrought iron trim was rusty, so they started painting it (unfortunately, after painting it almost all day, we learned from Leslie that he planned to have someone come in and sandblast the wrought iron, so it could be primed and repainted, so that was very discouraging to them – I'm pretty sure that was the only time all week that I saw Danica's bubbliness dampened). And the rest of the crew put the big ladders up and started a 2nd coat on the north side of the house.
After a nice lunch in the front yard, sitting around the cooler in our T-shirts (mmm, 60 degrees …), we went back to work. Meanwhile, we were getting reports from up home (through various cell phone discussions) of below-0 temperatures for highs, all the schools closed, buses not able to run, etc. I have to say we were a little glad we were here this week…
The guys finished upstairs, and helped the others with the sunny south side of the house.
That side needed more work: scraping, priming, and painting, and was taller than the north side, so the ladders were a little more precarious.
Karen and I got finished with the back porch, and as I was putting things back on the porch that we had removed, I noticed a can of "Turbo Red" Porch & Floor paint, which we decided must have been bought for the back porch, since it was covered with white paint spots when we got there. We asked Leslie if it was OK to paint the floor of the porch (having learned our lesson about working outside the written scope), and he agreed.
We decided to stop working around 4:30, because we had to pick up the other crew around 5 or so and get back to camp in time to clean up before 6:00 dinner. Unfortunately, Danica had taken the bus out for fuel, and had gotten a little turned around (and had left her cell phone with us), so she didn't get back to the house till more like 5:00. But that was OK, since we had started late anyway. We ladies were done with our part of the painting job (except for a 2nd coat of Turbo Red), so we decided that we would request a new assignment for the next day, but the men would go back to finish up the south side of the house (probably a half-day).
Too bad I don't have a picture of Martin's semi-gloss white teeth… 😀
We got back to camp just as the dinner bell was ringing, so we ate in our painted clothes. Dinner was chicken teriyaki and rice, not bad really, nice and peppery. That evening they showed a documentary about Katrina, but we skipped that and went for a little walk in the neighborhood across the street, following part of a running route that was shown on a map by the front door. It wasn't really suitable for night-time running, though, and it turned out that there was no time all week that there was time to run when it was daylight.
I spent some time on the computer after finally connecting; the only place I found I could log on was in the front hallway right near the wireless hub (since my antenna seems weak), and sitting in a folding chair near an outlet (since my battery was dead). After lights-out at 10:00, Suzie found me sitting in the hall in the dark huddled over the light of my laptop screen (probably pretty pathetic), and said I could use her office as well as her ethernet connection, so I was finally able to check my work email and do some actual posting (about the bus trip).