Editor's note: This is our third visit to the Comeaux family, who are renovating their home following the August 2016 flood.
Amy and Russell Comeaux learned a lot as they put their home and lives back together following the flood a year ago this week.
Their Clearlake Estates home was devastated as water poured in, reaching the fourth step of the staircase to their second floor. They made it out by boat with their daughter, Madison, each carrying two garbage bags stuffed with their possessions.
A year later, the work in their home is nearing completion. The dirt and water are long gone. Power is back on. They now have air conditioning and heat.
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Gleaming dark wood floors have been installed throughout the entire downstairs, and the walls are repaired and painted soothing neutral colors.
In the kitchen are new stainless steel appliances, new cabinets and granite counters. And the master bedroom is almost finished with an adjoining master bath that's outfitted with a modern free-standing tub and large tiled shower.
A couple of Sundays ago, the Comeauxs were relaxing in their kitchen with a cup of coffee and the morning paper.
"It was like a normal Sunday," Amy Comeaux said.
It has been anything but a normal year.
For months, Amy Comeaux and Madison lived upstairs in Madison's room. Russell Comeaux, unable to navigate the stairs because of the aftereffects of the West Nile virus, lived in a small room downstairs with a room air conditioner and a mini refrigerator. It was hot and dusty on the concrete floors, but the Comeauxs persevered.
"We did it day by day," Amy Comeaux said. "You wake up and say what am I going to do to get through this day."
Much of their time was spent waiting.
"I could have built two houses like this in the time it took to redo this house," Russell Comeaux said.
Like many others have found out, lots of workers wouldn't begin a project without a down payment.
"If you paid somebody, they would work a couple of days and then not show up," Amy Comeaux said. "That held us up. It was the domino effect. We couldn't do something else until they finished."
The original wood floors in the home had been completely ruined by the water, but getting them and the residual glue removed would be an expensive proposition — even if the Comeauxs could find someone to do the job. One day, 16 members of Madison's cross country team from St. Michael High School arrived with their parents and removed the ruined floors in less than three hours.
"In times like this, you learn who the bad people are and who the good people are," Russell Comeaux said.
The family also discovered that they didn't need all the "stuff" they'd accumulated over the years.
"We lost a lot of valuable stuff, but we salvaged a lot that we didn't need," Amy Comeaux said. "Do we really need a hundred wicker baskets?"
Because she had to make so many decisions as to what she would replace, she prioritized and purchased the things they needed the most.
"I lost all my CorningWare and my ironing board," she said. "I had to decide, do I want to got to work wrinkled or feed Madison?"
Then there were other decisions like the color of the walls, the stain of the floors, the granite in the kitchen, the backsplash, the grout.
"Because we spent so much time waiting, we watched a lot of HGTV," Russell Comeaux said. "That helped with some of the ideas."
And, as her husband talked her through it, Amy Comeaux picked up some new skills, like hanging the blinds in the all of the rooms.
"She had never used a drill in her life," he said.
Even though the work is nearing completion, lots of small things still need doing.
"We work a little each weekend now," Amy Comeaux said.
Because their home was in such bad shape, the Comeauxs missed a lot last year, Madison's "sweet 16" birthday and family Christmas celebrations, but they are working hard to make up for lost time.
"At Christmas, my house is bursting at the seams with family," Amy Comeaux said. "I can't wait. It's just so happy."