Coming to Terms with New Orleans' Flood Zones

This week the government released flood maps that tell New Orleans' residents where they can rebuild, and how high off the ground their houses have to be. Among the residents affected are Colleen and Donald Bordelon, who live in St. Bernard Parish.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And as that hurricane season approaches, we have more news this morning from the Bordelon's. They're a couple in St. Bernard Parish, just outside New Orleans. They lived in their house through almost all of the flooding last year and told us last fall that they are determined to stay.

Mr. DONALD BORDELON (Resident, St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana): My house right now, I could put some paneling in and some sheetrock and some paint on and some new doors, and you know, make it really look nice again. You know?

Ms. COLLEEN BORDELON (Resident, St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana): We've got more than most. We got something to start with.

INSKEEP: For months, the Bordelon's have impressed many of us with their optimism. Listen carefully, and you hear people laughing sometimes to keep from crying. But it may be harder than they thought to recover. This week the government released flood maps showing many people must raise their homes or lose the chance for affordable flood insurance.

Yesterday, Donald Bordelon went to get the newspaper to find out if he was affected.

Mr. BORDALON: Yeah, buddy, we got, we're in big trouble, man. It does include us. We're supposed to raise the house three foot, before we can get flood insurance again.

INSKEEP: Oh, man.

Mr. BORDALON: As of right now we have flood insurance for next year. The following year, the way the paper says it, if we don't raise our house we're going to have a really big increase in our insurance. Which ain't no good, but what can you do, you know? I really can't, you know? So I'm going to spend $200,000 dollars and raise the house three foot? That don't make much sense. I had 14 foot of water in this house. What's three foot going to do? This just makes me mad, really.

INSKEEP: I guess the theory of the government is that a hundred year flood, as they call it, would not be quite as bad as the levy collapse that you dealt with last year. Maybe it would be less than three feet of water, that's a hundred year flood. That's their theory anyhow.

Ms. BORDALON: Well, my theory is instead of putting all the money in making people raise their houses, they'll raise the levies and fix the levies better. I used to be nice, Steve, but I think I'm starting to get the Katrina bug or something, because I'm starting to get aggravated. And I hate to get like that because that's not me.

INSKEEP: I was going to say, things must be getting pretty bad if you're getting aggravated.

Mr. BORDALON: That ain't no joke. If you get Colleen mad we're in trouble, guys!

INSKEEP: Well now, remind me here Donald, this is the house you grew up in, right? It's been there for...

Mr. BORDALON: Yeah, I was born and raised in this house, to tell you the truth, man. You know, we just added on to it. And added on, and added on.

INSKEEP: And your guess is now that with this requirement to raise your house three feet, that might cost you more than the whole house?

Mr. BORDALON: There's no doubt in my mind, buddy. I'll tell you what, tell you what you do, Steve. No joke, man. You know a lot of people, man. You get in touch with a structural engineer. You send him over here and you let him look at this place. And you know what he's going to do? He's going to laugh at me. How can you raise this up, yeah.

INSKEEP: What are you going to do? Because it sounds like if you don't do this, it's going to be really hard for you to get flood insurance.

Mr. BORDALON: Well, I'm going to tell you like this, buddy. Next year I have insurance. The following year, we'll have to see what it is, how much it's going to cost. It's just going to be raised up so much the way, you know, you can't afford it no more, you know?

INSKEEP: So now, I realize you folks have just gotten this news while you've been on the phone with us, but do you know what you're going to do next?

Mr. BORDALON: Steve, we really don't, man. You know, it's, Colleen's getting disgusted. Now I just kind of made it where, I kind of make a joke, I laugh it off, you know? Yeah, whatever they want to do, you know? I quit getting disgusted, man. I try to stay happy, you know? I try to stay happy all the time, man. But it does it, oh, it's just a big ole mess down here, you know? Give us another holler back in a couple months, you know, and we'll see where we're at by then. I might be crying next time. I might be screaming and hollering. I might be locked up in jail, I don't know.

INSKEEP: Well, I hope all this news doesn't spoil your Easter weekend, because it sounds like you've got family coming in and everything else.

Mr. BORDALON: Oh, no buddy, can't do that, man. Oh man, my nephew's coming back, man. We've some crabs already ordered. We've got some oysters ordered. We've got some crawfish ordered. We're going to have a big get-down, man. Wish you was around here, man, you could pass over and eat with us, buddy. I really do, man.

INSKEEP: Oh, be careful, because I'm going to get down and see you again one of these days.

Mr. BORDALON: Yeah.

Ms. BORDALON: Well, this Sunday's just Easter and the family. But next Sunday, plan on next Sunday.

Mr. BORDALON: You ought to pass over. No joke.

Ms. BORDALON: Next Sunday, because Ben's going to have all his little friends and that over here too. So we're looking for a big gang over here, so we might have to close off the street and have a block party.

INSKEEP: Well, Donald and Colleen Bordalon, it's great talking with you as always.

Ms. BORDALON: You too.

Mr. BORDALON: All right, man.

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