HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Baton Rouge is nearly 500 miles away from the Tennessee Valley, yet many people in our area have been directly impacted by the dangerous flood waters in Louisiana.
Two families had both remarkable and scary weeks. Billy Fahrig used to live in Toney, Ala. but now lives in Baton Rouge, and rescued countless stranded families with his boat. Then there are the Fulmers, who moved their son to LSU two weeks ago, not knowing just a week later, their son's dorm would be surrounded by flood water.
A Memorable Move-In
Moving your child to college is emotional as it is, but the Fulmer family, with a proud LSU Bound sign in their front yard, had an even harder time.
“So we were up here and had no clue what was happening until we started seeing the news," said Brenda Fulmer, Bret's mother. “Not being able to get down there and him not being able to leave. That he was stuck and there wasn’t anything we could really do about it.”
The Fulmers were fortunate they moved their son, Bret, down a week early for a leadership program called "Stripes." “Several people were moving in that weekend and heard of several people being stranded overnight on the interstate," said Bart Fulmer, his father.
That meant Bret and his roommate Nick were stuck inside their dorm with just a handful of others when the water started to rise. “There was a tennis court next door and there was water up to about halfway up the net but he didn’t get any water in his dorm," said Brenda.
Thankfully, the LSU campus wasn't the hardest hit area.
Neighbors Rescuing Neighbors
Bill Fahrig saw some of the worst flooding.
“I’ve never seen that before. The river, one of the reasons that a lot of places flooded, where I was it was normally 14 feet, it showed 36 feet on my depth finder," he says.
Last Sunday and Monday, Billy took out his 21-foot bait boat and began rescuing his neighbors from their flooded homes. “That’s just what we do around here. If I was to be in trouble, I’d want someone to come get me," said Fahrig.
He says many of the same "Cajan Navy" that rescued people during Hurricane Katrina were back in action this week. Billy says he rescued several families from the second story of their homes. One young boy fell asleep on the roof, waiting with his family for help.
Billy didn't just rescue people. “They had miniature horses, goats, cats, these people they wanted to bring out their animals too, you know, didn’t want them to drown, so they grabbed the animals and carried out with them," he says.
This summer has been a challenging one for Baton Rouge.
While Billy doesn't know if the flood waters can wash away the stains of the deaths of Alton Sterling and the three Baton Rouge Police officers gunned down days later, he does think the rescue efforts should remind everyone, they are one community. “It didn’t matter what color you were, what religion you were, if you’re in trouble, you got put on a boat and got taken out," said Billy.
The Fulmers say their son Bret is excited to begin classes at LSU on Monday. They say it will be a new adventure with certainly a memorable starting point.
The Fahrig family's property was spared, but it should come as no surprise, Billy plans to help his neighbors who lost nearly everything, recover and rebuild.