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State lawmaker suffers major home damage from floodwater

From the Baton Rouge area floodings | COMPLETE COVERAGE series
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Rep. Rogers Pope, left, R-Denham Springs, asks questions during a Louisiana House budget hearing. 

State Rep. J. Rogers Pope, like thousands of south Louisiana residents, suffered major damages in the flood of 2016, including three feet of water in his home and the loss of two vehicles.

"We have no flood insurance," said Pope, who returned home Tuesday morning after having to evacuate Friday amid rising water.

Pope lives about one mile south of the BassPro complex off Interstate 12 in Livingston Parish, which is one of the hardest hit areas among 29 parishes in line for federal disaster declarations.

He is former superintendent of the Livingston Parish School District, was superintendent of the year in 2000 and is often involved in key House education debates.

"It started Thursday night with the rain," Pope said.

"We started getting water, I guess, late Friday, then all day Saturday and then it started receding yesterday," he said.

"Most all of the furniture is gone, all of our appliances are gone," Pope said. "We will probably just come in and strip the walls, take out all the Sheetrock and start from the inside."

He noted that lots of parish residents are suffering.

"We are just one of many," he said.

The lawmaker, 75, is a longtime resident of the parish.

"I have never seen anything like this, ever," Pope said.

Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, launched his boat on Saturday and headed to Zachary to help with the rescue efforts. An estimated 800-1,000 homes in Zachary that had flooded. Ward, whose home was spared from the flooding, said he couldn't recall how many families he had helped evacuate — he was just caught up in trying to help.

"The saddest part is you pick people up who have lived there all their lives and they have never seen water come up like that," Ward said. "There are kids carrying plastic bags with a few clothes in them, and they are carrying their shoes to keep their only pair dry."

Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, said despite the personal circumstances of legislators, people should reach out to their state lawmakers if they need assistance.

House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, said his home didn't sustain any personal property damage, but his home was surrounded by water and flooding had affected families throughout his district.

"When this started on Friday, it all happened pretty quickly," Barras said. "People used tractors to pull cars out. Resourcefulness is not something we're lacking."

Barras said he was aware of two House members who had been directly affected — Pope and Republican Rep. Valarie Hodges, whose Denham Springs home is about 400 yards from the Amite River. Hodges texted Tuesday that she had lost her home and three vehicles and had to be rescued from the storm. 

Barras said the House is continuing to evaluate how many staff members were affected.

Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, didn't get any flooding in his home, but he had nine inches of water in his district office.

"Right now, we're just waiting for that to go down," Miguez said on Monday. He said he expected to lose some electronics and office equipment, but he has continued working to address constituents' needs during the flooding crisis.

Miguez, who lives on Bayou Teche, said the water was about three feet from reaching his home.

"We've never seen it that high," he said.

In hard-hit Central, water got close but did not enter the home of Republican Sen. Bodi White,  a Republican who is running for mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.