Editor's note: This is the first of several EatPlayLive features to follow a family as it rebuilds from the historic flood of 2016.
Like so many others, Russell and Amy Comeaux never imagined that the home they built in Clearlake Estates in 2001 would be one of thousands devastated by this summer's flood.
As the rains began, the Comeauxs were not worried because their home had never flooded.
"Only a very tiny corner of our lot was in a flood zone," said Russell Comeaux. "We were here for Gustav. We were here for huge rains."
But by the weekend of Aug. 13-14, water began to pool in areas that had never flooded.
On that Saturday morning, Aug. 13, the home of Amy's brother, Tim Baker, flooded in Denham Springs, so he headed to the Comeauxs' house, which was on higher land. En route, he got stuck on I-12, which by then was closed, so he abandoned his car and hitched a ride to St. Jean Vianney Catholic Church.
"I borrowed a neighbor's canoe, and my daughter, Madison, and I canoed down South Harrells Ferry Road to pick him up," Amy said. "The current was almost white water. We struggled steering. We were hitting trees and signs, and what was in the water was not pretty."
Then, on Saturday afternoon, the water began coming closer to the Comeauxs' home, so they decided to move upstairs to Madison's room, something that was very difficult for Russell, who walks with a cane following a near-fatal bout of West Nile virus in 2012.
As night fell, the power went out. "We couldn't see anything," Amy said.
But they could hear the popping sound of the hardwood floors coming up in all of their downstairs rooms. They knew they had water in the house.
When boats started passing through the neighborhood on Sunday morning, the Comeauxs realized they had to leave. By then, water had reached the fourth step of their staircase.
"We thought we would be caught upstairs," Amy said.
They came downstairs with their little dog and each with two garbage bags of possessions.
"The water came up so fast, we didn't have time to get things. Our wedding pictures, a quilt my grandmother made, my daughter's baby pictures, we just couldn't save," said Amy, who lost all of her clothes. "I saved one pair of pants, one pair of shoes."
They waded through the water to the front door, which they could hardly open.
"The current was vicious," Amy said. "Water poured in."
The Comeauxs will never forget the people of the Cajun Navy who saved them.
"These were people from West Baton Rouge and Plaquemine who came out of the kindness of their hearts," Russell said. "They wouldn't take anything for what they did. They did it out of goodness."
The boaters took the Comeauxs to O'Neal Lane, where they caught a school bus to an Albertson's parking lot. "The whole thing was so organized," Russell said.
The Comeauxs were met by Tee Brown, president of the mortgage company GMFS, where Russell works as a quality-control manager.
"He got us in a rental unit and then came back with clothes and shoes," Russell said.
Brown and employees of the company have continued to provide help as have the employees of Investar Bank, where Amy works.
"Tee paid for someone to gut the house and helped us get to Level Homes, which is doing the work to get us back in," said Russell, who is overwhelmed by assistance provided by people he doesn't even know.
Now, Amy and Madison are living upstairs in Madison's room so she can go to school at St. Michael High School. She is on the cross-country team, which came one day and popped up the rest of the ruined floors. Russell is in a condo.
The Comeauxs have been visited by people from the Shelter at Home program, which will fix up one bedroom and one bath and provide basic essentials so Russell can move back while the work is being done.
"We will be a family again," Amy said.
Russell said he has always been an optimist.
"The main thing is that we survived," he said. "Now, we are working to get the home back to where it was or even better."