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. southern_gent_from_mississippi

    I worked in NYC years ago on a 60 day job, my company was recoating a bridge and I was sandblasting and spraypainting at that stage of life. A couple weeks into the job, my truck was broken into and my stereo and other goodies were taken. Then later, the week before the job finished, I was clubbed in the head on payday and robbed. But, Im sure those incidents were the exceptions and not the norm for the area. I certainly dont think all people there are bad just because a few are. And no, I dont read these things often, I just have a bad headache tonight, cant sleep and Im bored. No offense was meant to you either by my writings, just felt like our area was being put down and I was probably mistaken.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:11 am | Report abuse |
  2. Ellis

    I don't like NYC. Too many bad people. Sure some are good but given a choice would I choose to live in NYC or a sewer in Montana. I would choose the sewer in Montana. It's not only safer but it's cleaner too. I rest my case.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
  3. Joey

    @ southern gent from mississippi:
    You are a gentleman.
    I had to move to NYC to be in a larger market. As you do, I travel. I've worked (in music) in forty-nine of our states, and on five continents.
    There are good and bad humans everywhere. When I went to a conservatory in Chicago at eighteen, a student counselor called me into her office to advise me that I was from Mississippi and needed to move more quickly. When in Rome...
    New Yorkers move more quickly than citizens of Jackson and Atlanta, and we are quick to be candid. In the South, a driver can wait (sometimes) to move ahead through the entire period of a green light, and the driver behind him will not blow his horn, considerately assuming that there is some reason for the car's not moving.
    New York could not serve as a matrix for a writer like Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, or James Agee.
    It's nice to meet you.

    May 22, 2011 at 7:41 am | Report abuse |
  4. From up the way

    Everybody wants to play with whats going on in the world today believe me everybody will know this is nothing to joke about!

    May 22, 2011 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |
  5. sinnerfromthestart

    i find it hilarious how you people start a topic and within a few comments go off on some tangent and completly forget the topic, "flooding" the lady said she was there in 73'when the flood measurement was 27.3 and there was no water or flooding/ current table/guage is 24,there is a reason she is out of everything! cha-ching!!!

    May 22, 2011 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
  6. Carla

    The flooding has not been easy on my family and me. I cannot believe the childish comments above, truly insensitive. Doubt these individuals were affected in anyway.

    May 22, 2011 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  7. Ellis

    Sorry to hear that Carla. I hope things get better for all of you.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  8. swamp buggy logger man


    if the flooding is hard on you and your family, maybe, just maybe, you should move out of the flood plane.

    didn't katrina teach them anything.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. Carla

    My roots are here. My family, husband, our jobs, and home are here. I cannot afford to move. My parents live 2 miles away. I will not leave them either.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  10. swamp buggy logger man

    i guess it's jsut a part of living down there.

    just like people in florida have to deal with hurricanes.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  11. Cesar

    Take care Carla and be safe, we are all praying for you.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. swamp buggy logger man

    what she needs a a big football stadium sized sponge,

    or a the worlds biggest shamwow.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  13. Cesar

    Very funny swamp, shut up stupid

    May 22, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  14. Ellis

    Swamp,you are not funny. Flooding is no laughing matter, sir.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
  15. Ellis

    @swamp; why don't you use a sponge to wipe your mothers ass.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
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