Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo By Michael Alexander
(L-r) Sebastien Pierre-Paul, 12, his mother Amie, his sister Maya, 8, his twin sister Natalia, 12, and his father Rudy sit in their house's upper level, the only area of the home spared by the flood. The lower level of their Powder Springs home incurred the most damage as it took in nearly four feet of water.

Family In Disbelief At Rising Creek Waters

By GRETCHEN KEISER, Staff Writer | Published October 29, 2009

Rudy Pierre-Paul, his wife, Amie, and their three children, never really thought about the creek hundreds of yards behind their house in a Powder Springs subdivision.

A tall fence marks the edge of their back yard, which slopes downhill away from the house. The creek is not even visible beyond the fence, but is 300 to 400 yards away.

“We never had trouble with the creek,” said Pierre-Paul, who is the chief medical technologist at Grady Memorial Hospital.

The morning of the flood, he woke up about 6:15 a.m. to take the children to school. But school was cancelled due to the weather.

“Then I noticed the water slowly rising in the back yard. It was still dark. Around 7:30 and 8 o’clock, when the sun started to come up, I noticed the water rising fast—really fast—behind the house.”

Even now he can’t believe what happened at the home where they have lived for nine years after moving here from New York.

“I was on top of a hill. I would say there is no way the water could get here,” Pierre-Paul said, as he recounted how he next headed to a nearby Home Depot to buy some sandbags.

By the time he came back, water had surrounded his home. On the bottom level, the force of the water bent a door in the family’s two-car garage. He was able to drive the family’s cars to a higher elevation nearby.

Rudy Pierre-Paul cut down some trees in his yard a few years ago and threw the stumps and limbs in the wooded area beyond his fence, but when the floodwaters reached levels well above his fence, the water brought tree remnants back to his yard. Photo By Michael Alexander

“When I opened up the garage, the water gushed in.”

Tree stumps that he had cut down and put on the other side of the back fence became buoyant and floated over the fence back into the yard.

As the family took shelter on the second floor of the home, the lower level, with a bedroom, bathroom, his home office, family room and laundry room, as well as the garage, flooded. Water reached about four feet deep and destroyed all the furniture, appliances and clothes there as well as the carpets, flooring and sheetrock. As he slogged through the water to turn off the power, he felt something pass by and saw two snakes swimming along. He trapped them behind a closed door downstairs.

“The fire department came and got us out, one by one,” he said. “It was terrifying watching the water rising so fast. It was traumatic for us and especially for the kids. The fire department carried the kids out.”

The children are 12-year-old twins, Natalia and Sebastien, and 8-year-old Maya, a third-grader. All the children go to St. Rose Academy in Douglasville. His mother also lives with them but has temporarily returned to her native Haiti because of the flood’s damage.

He estimates that their loss amounts to about $35,000. They did not have flood insurance because at the closing on their house the builder told them it was not necessary. Their homeowner’s insurance will not cover the losses either.

Still, the family is deeply aware of how fortunate they are.

“We are lucky because we have each other,” said Amie Pierre-Paul, recalling the tragic deaths some families nearby experienced in the flood.

The house’s entire lower level, which contained a bedroom for Rudy’s mother, a family room, office, laundry room, bathroom and the two-car garage, will have to be refurbished as a result of the flood. Photo By Michael Alexander

The children are happy to be home, even if it is just on the upper level of their house.

“All we have to do is just pray,” Natalia said she told her siblings. She added, “Our school is like one big family.”

The family moved in for three weeks with Amie’s sister as Pierre-Paul and members of the Knights of Columbus from St. John Vianney Church came to the house every day and threw away everything from the lower level, tearing up the flooring and sheetrock and insulation several feet up in every room.

A particular concern was that the home not aggravate the asthma suffered by one of the girls.

St. Rose Academy has raised some funds for the family and collected furniture. They have received gift certificates, and friends have taken shifts working to clear out debris, treat the damaged walls for mold and begin the rebuilding process.

They have been offered a used dryer but still need a washer. They are washing their clothes at their relatives. They have likely lost air conditioners and other major appliances. They could use the help of a licensed electrician.

But they are deeply grateful that they are able to be together as a family again. And they are grateful to the Knights of Columbus, St. Rose Academy and all those who have pitched in to help.

“It really tells us what kind of friends we have,” said Pierre-Paul.