Lexington police Detective Steve Cobb said he became numb to the lines of flood debris running through southern Louisiana like varicose veins.
Cobb, four other Lexington police officers and five friends of the department spent three days helping first responders and their families whose property was damaged by flooding last month.
The Lexington volunteers partnered with the Livingston Parish sheriff’s office to provide flood relief to a police force that collectively has not taken a day off since the flooding began Aug. 12, Cobb said.
More than 40,000 homes in Louisiana have been damaged by the flooding, The Associated Press reported. About 75 percent of homes in Livingston Parish have been labeled a total loss. Livingston is home to 138,000 people.
The Red Cross has called the flood the worst natural disaster in the United States since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Cobb and his team tore through water-damaged homes to salvage belongings and assess damage. The homes, most of which will never be inhabited again, were gutted, and their contents — flooring, furniture and appliances — were piled outside to be collected by the parish.
“Our focus is more than just the amount of work, but spending time with the people who have been through this,” Cobb said Tuesday night after working more than 12 hours pulling up a wood floor. “I’ve seen a resiliency with the people from Louisiana.”
The Livingston Sheriff’s Department has 300 deputies, 80 of whom have been completely displaced because of the flooding, said Livingston spokeswoman Lori Steele. The displaced officers have stayed with friends, at hotels and at the office.
The sheriff’s deputies have worked 20-hour days since the start of the flooding, Steele said. The deputies have done everything from helping people with yard work to patrolling abandoned homes. The patrols have resulted in an average of 30 arrests each night, Steele said.
This increased workload has forced deputies to neglect their damaged yet salvageable homes. Cobb and his team helped remedy this.
Starting Monday, the volunteers from Lexington logged 30 hours of work in Livingston. Some of those hours were spent in the home of Shawn and Jennifer Duet, who have stayed in a Best Western with their three children since the flood swamped their home. Jennifer Duet is a sheriff’s deputy.
The volunteers spent half of Wednesday cutting Sheetrock to replace walls ruined by the water.
“In the law enforcement community, it’s like everybody is family,” Shawn Duet said. “Those people put their lives on hold to help us, and it’s greatly appreciated.”
Cobb and the team returned home Thursday evening, but Lexington-based support for the people of southern Louisiana continues.
University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari helped raise more than $300,000 through a celebrity softball game, the Old Paris Road Church of God contributed $2,000; and Bourbon n’ Toulouse owner Kevin Heathcoat has a fundraiser in the works.
The fundraiser is tentatively set for Sept. 9. It will specifically help Cajun Power hot sauce, which lost all of its finished products and raw supplies. The company, which sells Bourbon n’ Toulouse all its hot sauce, also has to replace bottling equipment motors that were submerged.
“The buildings were badly damaged and have major renovations to make,” Heathcoat said. “Our customers are in love with their sauces, and we think they will be thrilled to be able to help this company out. We will do a charity day where we donate 25 percent of our sales to either Cajun Power or to the town that they live in.”