Waiting for the flood in Butte LaRose
May 21st, 2011
10:49 PM ET

If flood comes, owners of landmark store in small Louisiana town hope to ride it out

After more than a week, the residents of the tiny Louisiana town of Butte LaRose are still waiting and wondering if the flood will come. Many have packed their belongings, some have barricaded their homes behind temporary levees, and others have put the wheels back on their trailers and hit the road.

The early predictions were dire: 15 feet of water could inundate the town within days. The expected crest of the Atchafalaya River was soon lowered by a couple of feet, but the threat of serious flooding remains.

On any given day this past week, a visitor to this town six miles off I-10 would see inmates loading sandbags, Humvees rolling down the main drag and mobile homes creeping along the tiny road back toward the interstate. As people in this self-proclaimed "Swamp capital of the world" wait for the worst, Doucet's Grocery, the only store in Butte LaRose, is keeping its doors open and the beer cold.

At first glance, you'd think the store had already closed. A closer look at the aluminum screen doors reveals a handwritten sign with the hours of operation: 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Peek through the screens, and you see signs of activity inside.

There's no need for a door chime. The clanging of metal crashing against metal announces each customer's arrival as the door slams shut. Step inside past the 12-pack of beer propping the door, give your pupils a few seconds to adjust to the dim fluorescent lighting, and gaze at the aisles of goods ranging from feminine hygiene products to live bait.

Behind the counter, store co-owner Beulah Doucet sits patiently, waiting for her next customer to mosey up with a handful of goods. The sound of chirping crickets fills the air. They're the live bait, bouncing around in a wooden incubator. Overhead, abandoned wasp nest "trophies" the size of volleyballs hang from the ceiling like disco balls.

Doucet's Grocery has been a family business and town landmark for nearly 90 years. Beulah and her husband, Jack, have owned and operated the store for 48 years, ever since her parents retired and gave it to her. She still puts in 16 hours each day, stocking the shelves and working the register.

The 80-year-old Doucet says in spite of the flood warnings and calls to evacuate, she's staying with her store as long she can. She's seen floods here before. "In 1973, the gauge was 27.3, and we didn't have any water on the front of the store," she reminisces. Predictions over the past week started at 29 feet on the river gauge, and have now fallen to just above 24 feet.

The river's waters don't seem to worry Doucet nearly as much as the calamity that can accompany disaster. She's moved much of her merchandise off the lower shelves and to higher ground. The bigger concern is that the power could be cut, thawing her freezers and ruining the frozen fare inside.

Then there's the possibility of looters. Doucet has heard rumors of strangers in town posing as government officials, telling people to leave their homes immediately so they can take what they'd like. While these may only be rumors in a parish that's being heavily patrolled by law enforcement, Doucet says she's got a plan to barricade the door should she be forced to leave.

So far, evacuation remains voluntary. A mandatory order had been planned for Saturday morning, but it has been postponed until at least Monday. Even without a mandatory order, nearly everyone in town is gone. They do come back to check on their homes, but no one is staying just yet.

Doucet's Grocery is still open, and the Doucets are still there with it, even if they're now out of beer and nearly everything else. "If they allow me to stay, this is where I want to be," Beulah Doucet says. "Even if I'll be all isolated, I'll be home."

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Filed under: Louisiana • U.S.
soundoff (106 Responses)
  1. RUFFNUTT

    i would live in a house boat.. then when it floods you just throw an ancor out and wait for the water to go down...

    May 21, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. southern_gent_from_mississippi

    Totally agree with the store owner. If you choose to live in a flood prone area then live in it. Dont run everytime a floods headed your way. We have regular hurricane and tornado threats where I live, Mississippi, but we learn to take what precautions we can and live our lifes. It may be uncomfortable at times but this is where we choose to live and its home to us.

    May 21, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Nancy

    "Step inside past the 12-pack of beer propping the door, give your pupils a few seconds to adjust to the dim fluorescent lighting, and gaze at the isles [AISLES] of goods ranging from feminine hygiene products to live bait."

    Please, pretty please, CNN, find someone who can proofread worth a darn!!

    As for the story itself, I wish the Doucets all the luck in the world.

    May 21, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. QBC

    I live in Krotz Springs which is not far from Butte LaRose. The way the government has handled this crisis has been horrible. We do not expect government handouts. We are after all Cajuns, but we do expect accurate flood predictions and respectable evacuation orders. So far in St. Landry parish we have received nether. Don Menard, our parish president, issued a mandatory evacuation last Sunday saying we should expect water within 36 hours. Almost seven days later we have seen no water and the evacuation is still in affect. We only want truth and honesty. We are used to doing for ourselves, taking care of our own, and banding together.

    May 21, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. PARROT

    SOMEONE PLEASE HELP THIS LADY...!! I BET SHE IS SO ELDERLY SHE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THE DANGER OF THIS

    May 21, 2011 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • swamp buggy logger man

      so what your saying is cause she is old she is dumb?...

      old people are older and she has lived there for a long time... i think she knows whats going on..

      May 21, 2011 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. nuttycreative

    This is one of the sweetest ladies you will ever meet. And, her fried chicken is the BEST. Not too many of these American icons left. Good luck Ms. Doucet.

    May 21, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. mythoughts247

    Climate change is staring us in the face everywhere we go and we are still too stupid to realize it.

    Increased flooding, storms, rain in rainy places, droughts in dry places, wildfires, all of this has been predicted to come along with climate change by over 98% of the world's climate scientists for decades and yet no one even mentions the connection. We will pay for being idiots because it's predicted to get much, much worse.

    We are not even at 1 degree Celcius warming yet and we are already seeing major consequences. Climate scientists say that at this point there is nothing we can do to stop the world from reaching 2 degrees Celcius of warming (read this is just the beginning re floods, storms, droughts, and wildfires), but that it is still in our power, if we cut greenhouse emissions drastically, to prevent reaching 3, 4, 5, or 6 degrees of warming, which is where we are currently headed by 2100 and would likely not be survivable by the human species. This is not science fiction people, this is real science. When you say good night to your child tonight make a vow not to leave her/him to a world wracked with hunger, thirst, war, and constant widespread natural disaster tragedies. Call your representative and tell him/her to limit carbon emissions to the levels scientifically proven necessary to avert disaster

    May 22, 2011 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  8. sherriejones

    I think shes sweet. She got to be that age by using her head. & gods watching over her

    May 22, 2011 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
  9. denoux

    Worth a damn!!!!! Qbc looks like you need to read over your own comments huh?

    May 22, 2011 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  10. sherriejones

    Up here in Baltimore Md we had a slight quake. In Baltimore!! I myself would stay home in a disaster. @have pray!!

    May 22, 2011 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
  11. AMERICA 1st

    That blogger thats ranting about greenhouse gases and global warming, etc., youre just another 1 of those pessimistic doomsday fools. Get a life! By the way, were u 1 of those rapture fools?

    May 22, 2011 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
  12. Joey

    I agree with AMERICA 1st's comment, and I really like the stage name.
    The Mississippi River floods sometimes; it flooded terribly enough times to make wonderful soil in that area. It flooded before electricity and before automobiles. Flying over its flooded areas several times during the 1973 into towns near the river was unforgettable to me. I'd be careful if I built a house in that area: nobody HAS TO live in Mississippi. I grew up there and left.

    May 22, 2011 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  13. southern_gent_from_mississippi

    @Joey, good riddance. We have a saying here, Mississippian by birth but Southern by choice. Ive traveled probably 40 of the 50 states working in the oil and marine industry and the South is always where I cant wait to get back to. The people here are just more friendly and caring. Like when we DO have a storm, anyone whos able is out helping their neighbors and townspeople afterwards. You dont have that in other parts of the country. When we do have looters after a disaster, theyre almost always from out of town. And climate change preacher, your scientists sayin all that garbage are the same ones who were saying we were headed for another ice age 20 years ago. Do a little reading, go to a library, look back 20 years or so and read about the coming ice ago that we were supposed to have.

    May 22, 2011 at 2:15 am | Report abuse |
  14. Ellis

    I can't swim. Help me. Shall I tweet?

    May 22, 2011 at 4:04 am | Report abuse |
  15. Joey

    @ southern gent from mississippi:
    The people in NYC are friendly and caring, too. If you want to see mutual love in a community, visit New Yorkers during a blackout or a snowstorm.
    In discussing leaving Mississippi, I was talking about the ability of anyone to build on higher ground than flood areas, as well as to relocate in another state. My leaving was not an affront to the people of Mississippi: obviously you have not read my many posts in this forum concerning the good spirit and hearty stock of Southerners.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:38 am | Report abuse |
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