Louisiana flood victims have suffered one of the greatest losses from a natural disaster since Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Thanks to the community’s survival skills and quick thinking, thousands of people were rescued by boats, raised trucks, and even by helicopter from their roofs.

After learning about the devastating impact of the flood, I travelled with a group of friends to camp out in Gonzalez, Louisiana - just outside of Baton Rouge - to assist with the organized clean up efforts. The residents had to gut their houses before mold and rot completely destroyed their homes. This meant they had to throw out all of their belongings as well as tear out the sheetrock, insulation, and even tubs, sinks, cabinets, etc.

While some individuals and families had flood insurance, most did not.

I talked with one man who went by the name ‘Daddy’ that said he hadn’t seen more than a few inches of water in his backyard for over 45 years. That changed drastically in the middle of August as more than 26 inches of rain fell in just a few life-changing hours. He told me his story:

“I had just laid down to take a nap when my daughter ran up beside me, grabbed my arm and said, ‘Daddy, Daddy, we need to go!’ I told her, ‘No hun, I’m taking a nap!’ I was very tired, you see. She then pulled me up hard. And when my feet touched the floor, the water was already up to my ankles. We ran out as fast as we could.”

I also talked with his son, Greg, an EMT and former police officer.

“The water rose from nothing to 5 feet in just 20 minutes.”

Greg continued, “I thought to myself, ‘I had better get my boat and get Daddy, Momma, and anyone else I can fit out of here.’ So I quickly got my boat off my trailer and started gathering as many people as I could. The water was moving so fast.”

Thanks to the astonishing courage and fortitude of the community, everyone in his family was rescued and taken to safe ground.

This family was one of the families fortunate enough to have purchased flood insurance for their home. Even though Daddy hadn’t seen his home flood since he first moved in over 45 years ago, he knew the value of having flood insurance just in case it ever did. Since the home was gutted down to its frame, they’re going to remodel the home by taking down a wall and installing a wider door for a family member that uses a wheelchair.

He and his family are currently staying in a hotel as the damage is assessed and clean up continues. This cost, known as loss of use is covered by his insurance. Once the dollar amount of the total damage is assessed, he will be given enough money to rebuild his home and to purchase furnitures, clothes, and other necessary items.

Since I arrived about 3 weeks after the worst part of the flood occurred, I talked with many people who were already installing new insulation, putting up sheetrock, and other parts of rebuilding the interior of a home. One man I talked with said with a sigh, “No, I don’t have flood insurance, this is all out of pocket.” He lives across the street from Daddy.

Helping clean out items from these homes and looking at their possessions, furniture, and the walls of their house strewn on the sides of the street waiting to be picked up by a disaster clean up service has taught me that purchasing flood insurance is worth it.

I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to assist the wonderful people of Louisiana. While it was disheartening to see so much loss, it was reassuring knowing that those with flood insurance would be able to piece their lives together much quicker than those that had to start from scratch.

Most of us often think, “It won’t happen to me.” That’s what the people of Gonzalez, Baton Rouge, and other cities of Louisiana thought. Over 40,000 homes were affected by torrential rains that resulted in rivers overflowing and then flooding locations that hadn’t been flooded for decades. As you consider your insurance options, keep in mind that anyone can be affected by flooding. Although it may not happen, having flood insurance will make what could be a devastating disaster into nothing more than a minor setback.