3 Years After Katrina, Family Preps For New Storm

We first met Donald and Colleen Bordelon nearly three years ago after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their home. In occasional conversations, we heard all about their rebuilding efforts. Now, how are they preparing for Gustav?

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We're going to check in now with a family that for some of us have come to symbolize the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. Three years ago, after the water receded from St. Bernard Parish near New Orleans, we found Donald and Colleen Bordelon already starting to repair their ruined home.

Ms. COLEEN BORDELON: ...sheet rock, the paneling, carrying it out, dumping it.

INSKEEP: That's what that enormous pile of trash...

Ms. BORDELON: The enormous pile.

Mr. DONALD BORDELON: I guess I'd have to say 40 years of everything in your house, years and years of just...

Ms. BORDELON: Stuff people save.

Mr. BORDELON: Stuff. Right, you know, all your stuff. You know, it's hard to leave something like this, it really is.

INSKEEP: Well, you haven't.

Mr. BORDELON: No, not yet.

INSKEEP: We've been visiting with the Bordelons ever since, and many listeners have been inspired by their determination to rebuild. Here's Donald Bordelon in 2006.

Mr. BORDELON: Oh yeah, the inside is coming out nice, you know.

INSKEEP: You've got the drywall up, the sheet rock?

Mr. BORDELON: Oh yeah, man. Oh man, got the TV, the cable in. All the furniture's pretty much in, you know.

INSKEEP: So just for the record, for people who know, if you happen to have your house completely flooded out by a major hurricane, it only takes you about two years to get back in order.

Mr. BORDELON: Well, maybe three years.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Now as Hurricane Gustav comes ashore, we're checking in with the Bordelons again. Good morning to you both.

Ms. BORDELON: Good morning.

Mr. BORDELON: Good morning. How y'all doing?

INSKEEP: I'm okay. It's great to talk with you again, even under these conditions.

Ms. BORDELON: Yeah.

Mr. BORDELON: Yeah.

INSKEEP: Where are you folks now?

Mr. BORDELON: We're in Baton Rouge by my daughter's house.

INSKEEP: So I guess that means you decided to leave the storm and not ride this one out as you did Katrina?

Ms. BORDELON: Yeah. I didn't want to, but yeah.

INSKEEP: Which means you had to leave behind the house. What condition were things in as you left?

Mr. BORDELON: Weather was beautiful. A lot of people was leaving. You're going to have a lot of people leave this time because everybody's so scared, you know? You're scared the water's going to come back in, you know? It's just so hard.

INSKEEP: You've done it twice, Donald Bordelon.

Mr. BORDELON: Yeah. I didn't want to make it three times, you know. So we come on up to Baton Rouge, you know. It's (unintelligible) right now, it's pretty nice here. You know, they've got a little gust of wind maybe. The bad part's going to be I guess later on this evening, tonight, you know?

INSKEEP: I want to understand what's at stake in the next few hours or perhaps days. We visited your street more than once. Many of the homes were destroyed. I know some of them were torn down, but some people were also rebuilding. How many people were back on your street by the third anniversary, which just came on Friday, of Katrina?

Mr. BORDELON: Oh man, I would say about one-third of what we had before. The people across the street from me, they just about got their house finished, and they was packing up, leaving. They didn't want to leave either, you know. They just got their furniture in their house and everything, and you've got to pack up and leave.

INSKEEP: What day did you guys get out?

Mr. BORDELON: We left Saturday, yeah.

INSKEEP: What were the last things you did before you closed up the house?

Mr. BORDELON: Said goodbye. Took a couple pictures and said goodbye.

INSKEEP: Can I just ask, because we followed so closely your efforts to rebuild this house and to restore it to what it was or even something a little better than what it was - were you able to get insurance on this house before Gustav approached?

Mr. BORDELON: Oh yeah. We had insurance before the hurricane. We really have a pretty good policy.

INSKEEP: They didn't cancel on you?

Mr. BORDELON: No, sir. What we're worrying about is the water, you know. If the water comes back, are we going to go back? We don't know.

INSKEEP: So you stuck out the 1965 hurricane, you stuck out the 2005 hurricane, but a third one just might be a little too much for you.

Mr. BORDELON: Oh yeah. You know, well, it's just hard. You know, you've seen what we went through, you know. We're going to stay at home. It's just like camping, really, you know, but just a lot harder, you know?

INSKEEP: But this time you're thinking seriously about whether you might ever return to St. Bernard Parish, especially if there is a flood?

Mr. BORDELON: Oh yeah, if it's a flood, we'll most probably go back and downsize a whole lot. I don't know where we're going to go, maybe build something really small in St. Bernard. I still have a few more years of work to go before I can retire.

INSKEEP: Colleen Bordelon, does the mere fact that you had to evacuate make you think about your future and whether you want to stay in St. Bernard Parish?

Ms. BORDELON: You know, I'm, I guess, optimistic or whatever you want to call me, naïve, I don't know. I'm really hopeful we'll go back. It's home.

INSKEEP: Has everybody that you know fled the path of this storm?

Ms. BORDELON: No, Donald's brother, Jigger, he stayed. He's in the process of building a house off the ground, and the structure's up there. He don't have no windows or doors in it, but he was staying.

INSKEEP: Well, Donald and Colleen Bordelon, it's always a pleasure to talk with you, even under these circumstances.

Ms. BORDELON: You too.

Mr. BORDELON: Take care, man.

INSKEEP: So that's Donald and Colleen Bordelon, safe in Baton Rouge, Louisiana this morning.

As soon as we heard about Donald's brother, we picked up the phone and called him earlier today. He is Jerome William Bordelon, Jr., known as Jigger.

Mr. JEROME BORDELON: I'm in Chalmette, Louisiana right now.

INSKEEP: That is in St. Bernard Parish?

Mr. J. BORDELON: Yes, sir.

INSKEEP: And isn't that an area that flooded in 2005 during Katrina?

Mr. J. BORDELON: Yes, sir, in 1965 also.

INSKEEP: Okay, so what is your situation? Donald said something about being in a - that you were building a house that was well above ground.

Mr. J. BORDELON: Yes, it is. It's about eight feet above the slab. So I'm nice and high, you know?

INSKEEP: You're nice and high, and are - is it close to being finished? Do you have an enclosed space to be in?

Mr. J. BORDELON: The outside walls, it's framed up, outside walls are on. The roof is on. There's no interior walls or nothing yet.

INSKEEP: Mr. Bordelon, as you probably know, every official in the country from the president on down has been urging everybody to leave. Why did you decide to stay?

Mr. J. BORDELON: It's hard to say. This is all you have, you know? I don't know, just that I think that I had to stay here, you know?

INSKEEP: Did you stay in 2005 for Katrina?

Mr. J. BORDELON: Yes, sir, I did.

INSKEEP: And you got through that okay.

Mr. J. BORDELON: Yes, sir.

INSKEEP: Now, the phone line is starting to break up. Before we lose you, I'd like to ask how the weather is right now.

Mr. J. BORDELON: It was really clear last night, and all night until about 3:30 this morning it started raining somewhat, and the wind's blowing. I guess it's about maybe 50, 60, maybe 50 miles an hour, maybe a little gust more than that, but about 40 to 50 continuous, you know?

(Soundbite of banging noise)

INSKEEP: I'm sorry, what's that? Is something happening there? I'm hearing a banging noise.

Mr. J. BORDELON: Oh, a banging. That's some tin on the roof flapping.

INSKEEP: Oh, tin on a roof on somebody's house that's already blowing and moving around.

Mr. J. BORDELON: Flapping, yes sir. That's what you hear. That's what you was hearing. There's a light rain, a light rain going on. It's kind of almost horizontal right now. You know, as you heard, you hear tin - tin flipping and flapping. Trees are wiggling, but I haven't seen nothing snap off or anything like that.

INSKEEP: Well, Jerome William Bordelon, if the phone service holds up, I would like very, very much to be able to check in with you a little bit later on today, if you don't mind.

Mr. J. BORDELON: You call me any time you like.

INSKEEP: Since we reached Mr. Bordelon earlier today, the phone lines have been blocked. But we'll bring you more updates as we learn them. It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.