With refreshed memories of the devastating storm surge from Hurricane Rita 15 years ago, homeowners, business owners and camp owners took preparations Monday for what could be another flooding event when Tropical Storm Laura comes ashore later this week.

Laura is expected to make landfall in southwest Louisiana on Wednesday or Thursday as a hurricane.

Monday afternoon, as the anticipated path of Laura showed little change, southwest Louisiana preparations took on a more urgent tone. In Iberia Parish, a sugar cane farmer rushed to harvest some of his crop. In Vermilion Parish, cattlemen loaded stock into trailers and headed for higher ground while camp owners boarded windows and lifted furniture.

At St. James Chapel in the Vermilion Parish settlement of Esther, members of the congregation moved pews and other items to the choir loft and into trailers for safety. Hurricane Rita sent 9 feet of water into the chapel.

John T. Landry of Abbeville spent Sunday and Monday moving furniture at his camp to the second floor. Hurricane Rita completely wiped away his one-story camp in 2005. He rebuilt it with two stories and Hurricane Ike's storm surge washed through the bottom floor in 2008.

"I know that thing's going to be washed through if not washed away," he said.

After Rita, a king-size bed, washing machine and dryer completely disappeared from the camp, washed away forever.

But buried in the mud Rita left behind was the agitator to the washing machine, Landry said.

"Three of us couldn't pull that agitator out," he said. "It's scary. That water is relentless."

Josh Cornner of Erath was filling sandbags near the Erath Town Hall on Monday afternoon for his woodworking business. He fully expects his business and possibly his home will flood again as Laura pushes storm surge into low-lying parts of Vermilion Parish. 

For Hurricane Rita, Cornner's business had 24 inches of water inside. Hurricane Gustav, three years later, sent 12 inches into his shop. His home wasn't spared by either storm. Rita sent 28 inches of water into his home and Gustav followed with 16 inches. For Rita, Cornner said he lost everything because everyone was taken by surprise.

"I have a feeling it's going to be like Rita or worse," Cornner said.

By Tuesday he plans to lift furniture and equipment, move what he can into trailers to relocate to higher ground and hope for the best.

"You learn how to adjust to it," he said. "I've been through it twice, so I know what it's all about."

He was filling sandbags Monday afternoon to place around his business "because everybody's nosy and want to ride around," Cornner said. "All them sightseers."

W.L. Davis Sr. has lived off La. 339 in Erath around 32 years. His house, elevated a couple of feet, never flooded, but it came close a few times.

His wife sent him to town hall for sandbags Monday afternoon to put around the doors.

"But if it gets that high," he laughed, "you're going to lose the floor."

Lauren and Wayne Kidd enlisted the help of their young sons, Paxton, 6, and Levi, 5, to fill sandbags. For Hurricane Rita, Lauren Kidd said she lived in Milton where it didn't flood.

"I'm a little nervous," she said Monday. "I'm being cautious. It's the storm surge I'm worried about."

Her husband offered this advice learned from personal experience with prior hurricanes: "Get plenty of beer and charcoal."

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Email Claire Taylor at ctaylor@theadvocate.com.