Susan Rice returned from her daughter’s home in Baton Rouge, a mind-numbing two-hour car ride through the devastation left behind by Hurricane Laura. She drove with “a pit in the stomach” feeling she likely lost her home — Again.
“I was on I-10, and the minute you get off you start seeing all of the destruction,” Rice said. “ You get a pit in the stomach. The mom and pop little businesses, that’s their income. Now they have none.
“I was broken-hearted to know that so many people were going to lose their homes,” she said. “I prayed over my house all night long. That’s probably what saved it, the Lord heard my prayers.”
Hurricane Laura made landfall overnight on Aug. 27, ripping through East Texas and western to central Louisiana with winds as high as 150 miles per hour. The storm was the strongest to hit the area in about a century, and was one of the strongest ever storms to make U.S. landfall, according to the National Weather Service.
The storm killed at least 16 people, most of them in Louisiana, officials said.
Upon leaving Louisiana, Hurricane Laura moved across Arkansas, downgraded to a tropical depression headed toward the lower Ohio Valley.
One Manufactured Home in Moss Bluff
“When I left my house before the storm, I felt like I was going to lose my home again,” Rice said. “That’s devastating, it just crushes you. You know you may come back to nothing.”
In September of 2005, Rice’s former home on that same spot along Ryans Road in an area known as Moss Bluff was destroyed by Hurricane Rita. The home she bought in 2007 to replace her “very old” site-built home was a new three-bedroom, two-bath manufactured home from Deer Valley.
“I upgraded on the cabinets and the siding, which is Hardie Plank. It’s very, very sturdy,” Rice said. “Knowing that it is built to withstand a category 3, that did give me just a bit of hope. And it went through a category 4, so it’s certainly sturdy.
“I am blessed,” she said. “It really is a miracle.”
Devastation in Louisiana
Rice’s experience evacuating Lake Charles and returning to her home amid the destruction was documented briefly among the accounts of many other Louisianans in a New York Times story on Hurricane Laura.
She said her friend’s aunt lost her home in the storm, and so too did her grandaughter’s grandparents from the other side of the family. She said only one of the three routes into her neighborhood were passable when she returned.
“There are trees all over the road and fallen on people’s homes. It’s so sad. I’m so sad for the people who’ve lost their homes, and you’re also happy because you still have yours,” she said. “I had one little leak and my daughter is helping me out. She is sending a maintenance guy with a generator, and a roofer is coming to do an inspection next week. I really lucked out.”
If she ever had to buy a new home again, Rice said, she’d return to R&R Mobile Homes in DeRidder, La., and get another new Deer Valley.
Durable Homes from Deer Valley
Deer Valley builds manufactured and modular homes from its facility in Guin, Ala., and sells the homes through a 15-state retail network.
Deer Valley Homes General Manager Chet Murphree said he is pleased but not surprised the company’s homes, even ones as old as the Rice home, are able to stand up to the largest storms.
“I received another homeowner testimony of how his family’ home stood fast against Laura,” Murphree said. “We are known for the heaviest built standard manufactured homes In the southeast with fastening systems that exceed the stability of stick-built homes. The installation is paramount as well.
“The Rice home, I expect was set to Wind Zone 3 specifications that ensure they withstand continual high-speed winds,” he said. “I also agree with Mrs. Rice that our sovereign creator always has a hand. God Bless Mrs. Rice and her family.”