KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
“The water started seeping in through the walls. We woke up our son, put on his little boots, and put him up on the table.”
Callie Lips, children’s book illustrator, her husband Tech. Sgt. Ricky Lips, 403rd Maintenance Squadron, and their two-year-old son were one of the 403rd Wing families affected by the flash floods that swept through Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Aug. 12.
Lips said that all the roads were closed, so they sheltered across the street with their friends who have a generator. When the power eventually came back on, they went home and went to sleep. They said something woke them up around 5 a.m. and they saw that the water outside was starting to rise, but they let their son sleep until it started seeping in through the walls.
“By the time we got help, the water was up to my knees,” Callie said.
She also said that even though she and her husband lived through Hurricane Katrina, these flash floods were even more devastating because they’re parents now.
“My two-year-old slipped in flood water and was covered from head to toe. He’s at an age where he’s not going to remember, but I’m going to remember,” Lips said.
A week after the flooding, a ring circled the walls marking how high the water had risen, the floorboards were peeling away from the ground, and doorways were so swollen that Tech. Sgt. Lips said he had to kick them open. Outside, nearly all of the Lips’ possessions were covered in mud and heaped in a pile by the curb. Their two cars still had droplets coating the inside of the windows from the moisture that had been trapped inside.
“I’m a sentimental person,” Callie said. “I had photographs and letters my husband sent me while he was in boot camp. They just crumpled in my hands.”
Unlike the predictable hurricanes the Gulf Coast braces for every year, flash floods can come so quickly that there’s little time to react, much less prepare.
“It’s a crazy feeling how fast it can progress,” Lips said.
Once the water receded, the long cleanup and recovery process began. People, even those affected by the floods themselves, helped one another immediately.
Tech. Sgt. Krystal Ramsey, 403rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron, who lives in a second-floor apartment in the area, was on temporary duty during the flood. She said she couldn’t get home until Aug. 16. She said that while her apartment was untouched, she was struck by all the devastation she saw on her drive home including piles that contained everything a person owned.
“I’ve been helping my neighbors clean up every day, and I’ve been doing everything I can to help everyone,” Ramsey said. “I was in Gulfport during Katrina, so I know exactly what they’re going through.”
Senior Airman Christian Botello, 403rd MXG, said he had evacuated his home before the storm because he knows his area is prone to flooding, and didn’t sustain any damage.
“We got lucky,” he said. “We’ve been helping neighbors move things out. Most people here got some kind of damage.”
The 403rd Wing came together immediately after the flooding to help. They collected bottled water, food, charcoal grills, cleaning supplies, clothing, other basic essentials and four couches with hideaway beds and delivered the items to wing members across the Baton Rouge area Aug. 19.
To get involved in the 403rd Wing’s continued recovery efforts or to make a donation, contact the 403rd Airman and Family Readiness Center at 228-376-8360. For more information about resources available to affected Airmen, read this article.