On the one hand, the historic flood that has wreaked havoc on south Louisiana this month hasn’t really fazed Jonetta Bennett.
Yes, the flood ravaged the Baton Rouge home Bennett shares with her sister, cresting at 2 feet and contaminating everything in its path. Sure, the pair waited for hours in the muddy water before being rescued by boat, then truck.
But it was no Hurricane Katrina.
“For Katrina, I lost everything,” said Bennett, 54, an event planner who lived in the Broadmoor neighborhood in New Orleans before moving near Cortana Mall in Baton Rouge.
Her New Orleans home got 6 feet of water. This time, she was at least able to save pictures and other mementos when the rainwater swept in.
On the other hand, the flood is an insult to the conventional wisdom the Bennetts adhered to when they fled swampy New Orleans after the storm for the capital city’s higher ground: Destruction by water doesn’t happen there.
They are among an unlucky cluster of victims of the most recent disaster to shake up south Louisiana -- distressed Katrina survivors who left for other areas of Louisiana they deemed safe, only to face devastation anew as floodwaters in recent days left thousands of people homeless and at least 13 people dead.
The one-two punch has forced them to deal with a mixture of emotions: despair, because they can’t seem to escape disaster, and yet a strange sort of calm, fueled by the knowledge that, this time, they at least know what to expect.
For the Bennetts, there also are light moments.
As they stand on slippery floors in their washed-out home on West Tams Drive, Bennett and her 53-year-old sister Natalie Bennett Thomas, a radiologic technologist who lived in Mid-City before Katrina, laugh when they think of how they plugged towels and rugs at the door early on Aug. 14, a Sunday, hoping to keep the water from rushing in.
They laugh again when they consider how they must have looked hours later, as they jumped and screamed from the murky water to catch the attention of rescuers.
“Somebody would pass in a boat, and my sister would be like, ‘Hey!’ ” said Thomas, waving her arms in the air.
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The sisters and Thomas’ daughter soon made it to the considerably less-damaged home of their other sister and brother-in-law -- Artelia Bennett Banks and Jay H. Banks, the couple who reigned as queen and king of Zulu in New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebration earlier this year.
The women spent much of Wednesday and Thursday trekking the 10 minutes from their neighborhood north of Cortana Mall to the Bankses' home in the Sherwood Forest area, grabbing what little they could save and hauling the rest out for trash pickup.
Their street, like many others in the city, is lined with moldy and soaked furniture. They plan to drag their own furniture to the curb once Jay Banks and others can help them with the heavy lifting, Thomas said.
Both homes are close to Jones Creek, which eventually deposits into the Amite River.
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Banks, 56, held onto his New Orleans home after Katrina but also bought property in Baton Rouge, thinking he'd have a safe haven there from flooding. "But somebody forgot to send a memo to the water," he said.
Things are generally better for them this time, he said. Both he and his sisters-in-law have flood insurance, and while they certainly weren’t looking forward to another disaster, they’ve approached it with a grim determination.
“As horrible as it may sound, we have an advantage in that we kind of know what we are doing,” Banks said.
At least one other Katrina and flood survivor seemed more solemn. On Aug. 14, Charles Dalton, 36, was seated with his wife and four of their children on a National Guard truck for the slow, watery crawl from the Vincent Road Wal-Mart in Livingston Parish, a makeshift gathering point for people whose homes had flooded, to yet another makeshift shelter on Satsuma Road.
Dalton and his wife had spent the previous morning rescuing neighbors and helping others evacuate, only to find their own way out swamped by the time they got home.
On the somber ride away from his neighborhood, Dalton — who lost his home and possessions in Gentilly during Hurricane Katrina before moving to Livingston Parish — snapped photos of well-known neighborhood landmarks, many of them now little more than a roofline poking through the ubiquitous brown water.
"There's nothing even to see," Dalton said as he looked out through the open back hatch of the truck. "I live here, and there's just nothing."
The family had hoped to make it that day to Dalton's mother's home in New Orleans — where two of their sons already were waiting — only to learn on the trip that part of the highway remained under water.
Gladier Dalton said Thursday that her son did find her.
“He’s having to go through this again,” she said. “I’m going through it with him, too.”
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Advocate staff writer Bryn Stole contributed to this report.