Jim Hawthorne comes full circle with Louisiana Sports Hall induction _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- LSU radio host Jim Hawthorne signs an autograph for Alex Hibbs, 9, right, before tipoff against Missouri in LSU's last regular season home game, Tuesday, March 1, 2016, at LSU's PMAC in Baton Rouge, La.

Jim Hawthorne stood on his front porch in flood waters nearly up to his hips.

There, right there in the middle of a Sunday afternoon, amid a destructive flood, far away from any basketball court, football stadium or baseball park, LSU’s now-retired radio broadcaster made his best call ever.

Men on a passing boat heard his screams for help and rescued Hawthorne and his wife Carol from a powerless home submerged in knee-high water.

“I heard the boat. We were laying there reading. I had the windows open. I said, ‘Carol, that boat is real close,’” Hawthorne said in an interview Sunday night with The Advocate. “I waded through the water and went out the front door. I could still see the waves rippling from the boat.

“I yelled as loud as I could, and they heard me,” the 72-year-old said. “I was in water up to my you-know-whats. I was yelling, ‘HEY! HEY!’ The motor stopped and they came around and came back.”

Hawthorne, LSU’s play-by-play man for 35 years before retiring in March, and his wife had been trapped in their one-story home in the Park Forest neighborhood of Baton Rouge since flood waters began trickling in Saturday. The home lost electricity later Saturday, and Hawthorne’s cell phone battery died Saturday night, isolating the couple.

The Hawthornes became one of many Sunday afternoon. More than 7,000 people have been rescued in a flood that’s drowned wide swaths of the Baton Rouge and surrounding area.

As waters receded around LSU’s campus, they rose elsewhere, affecting people tied directly to the university. Strength coach Tommy Moffitt on Saturday night helped friends evacuate and clear their homes near O’Neal Lane, and senior Christian LaCouture’s family needed to evacuate their Denham Spring home Saturday as river levels rose.

Areas that never suffered flooding were submerged — and quickly.

“The water came up so fast,” Moffitt wrote in a text to The Advocate.

It came up so quickly in Park Forest that the Hawthornes couldn’t get out. Some homes were submerged to the roof. They awoke Saturday morning to 3-4 feet in the street and several inches in the yard. Water poured in the one-story house later Saturday — a day Hawthorne spent leaning off his front porch and screaming for help.

“I’ve been yelling for two days. I could hear the boats,” Hawthorne said, “but they didn’t know where we were. I’m hoarse tonight.”

He and Carol are staying with friend and local radio personality Charlie Hanagriff on Sunday night, Hawthorne said. They tried to book a room at more than a dozen Baton Rouge hotels, but they were all full.

LSU released a statement to reporters Sunday urging media members to help locate the long-time broadcaster. Family members had last heard from him at 9 p.m. Saturday — around the time Hawthorne said he phoned 9-1-1 but was rebuffed because of his situation.

“The lady explained it. She wanted to know how many were in the house, how much water and how old we were,” Hawthorne said. “She said, ‘I want you to know the truth. There’s a lot of people out there, and we’re trying save their lives.’

“I knew we were way down on the pecking order, and I understood that completely,” he said.

Hawthorne called the university’s attempt at locating him “awfully heartwarming,” and he realized the full magnitude of what had become national news when he regained power on his phone.

“Truly unbelievable,” he said. “It’s amazing.”

Hawthorne said his granddaughter had planned to launch a boat to rescue him Sunday afternoon, and LSU spokesman Michael Bonnette, along with others, launched a boat as well. But the young men got to the Hawthornes first.

The Hawthornes were the final two people rescued by four men from Brusly. The group launched their own boat at 4 a.m. Sunday and rescued more than 50 people in the neighborhood, Hawthorne said.

“We lost power and couldn’t charge our phones. Last night, we stayed in the house,” he said. “No boats came by. We were prepared to do that again today and maybe a couple of days.”

The Hawthornes slept Saturday night in their bed, surrounded by more than 15 inches of water.

“My God — the water and devastation out there is horrific,” Hawthorne said. “We went to bed (Saturday night) or tried to. There’s nothing else we could do. You have to deal with what you were given. We were fortunate we got out.

"Every time we got out of bed, water was knee deep, and it was pitch black. It wasn’t scary,” he added, “This was more, ‘My gosh, what are we going to do? How are we doing to get out of here.’”

Gamecocks reach out

South Carolina reached out to LSU on Sunday, according to a message posted on Twitter from USC president Harris Pastides. South Carolina officials have not released any details on their plans, but an official with the department said administrators have discussed options.

LSU’s football game scheduled at South Carolina last October was moved to Baton Rouge because of flooding in the Palmetto State. LSU running back Leonard Fournette auctioned off the jersey he wore in the Tigers’ win over the Gamecocks for $101,000, and fans at that game gave more than $40,000 to support disaster relief efforts in South Carolina.

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.