Sisters recover from ArkLaMiss floods, still neighbors one year later

MONROE, La. (KNOE) - Almost everyone knows someone affected by the ArkLaMiss floods of 2016, but for KNOE's Shellie Sylvestri, the devastation hit close to home.

KNOE 8 News

Sylvestri's sisters, Stephanie Blackmon and Stacie Yerger are next door neighbors, and to say they do a lot together is an understatement.

"It's awesome being neighbors, that's why neither of us ever want to move," says Yerger. "Even when it floods."

It was not long ago that Blackmon and Yerger's homes on Spencer Avenue in Monroe flooded the first time in 2011. Yerger's kids were one and three-years-old. Blackmon had a five-year-old and was pregnant with her son.

They say they never would have dreamed it would happen again so soon.

"It was five years almost to the day," says Blackmon.

Their homes flooded in an area they say many might consider overlooked, near Lexington Elementary School in Monroe.

"River Oaks didn't flood fives years ago, we did," says Yerger,

But experiencing a flood once still would not have prepared them for the three days of rain that swept through their homes last year.

"Once is started rising, it never stopped," says Blackmon.

"I told them we were going under," says Yerger. "I told them all day, we're going to flood."

For Yerger and Blackmon's kids, the next-door cousins weren't sure what was happening.

"I thought it was going to go to the tippy top of our house, like in the attic," says five-year-old Brody Blackmon.

"It just started getting me freaking out about rain," says Brooks Yerger.

But Blackmon's daughter, Anna Beth, remembers the flood from six years ago, and says she's happy she had family so close by.

"It made me feel safer because I knew there was more people around to help," says Anna Beth.

Their homes took on more than half a foot of water, which compared to some may not seem like much.

"It's not the massive amount of water Deborah [Drive] got, but four feet up is four feet up, and you've still got to gut your house," says Yerger.

Which is what the sisters - and their husbands - did almost immediately.

"I wanted it to be a dream," says Blackmon. "You don't know what to do."

Quickly, with the help of the community, family, friends... and their kids, they started demoing.

The kids say it made them feel happy that strangers came to their aid as well.

"At one point they brought a huge contained with mops and cleaning supplies, and stuff to help us pick up," says Anna Beth.

"I think it was from the American Red Cross," says Brooks.

Helping hands from Neville football players helped move furniture from their homes.

"It was very helpful. My husband is disabled, and she and I and our husbands... it's a lot to move," says Yerger.

After salvaging what they could and storing them in 18-wheeler trailers in their driveways during reconstruction, the trailers sat there for months.

"There were things that were wet in it that we didn't realize were wet," says Blackmon. "So we'd open them up and they'd be full of mold. So we threw away boxes and boxes of clothes, toys, books and furniture that had been sitting in the heat for six months because it was not air conditioned that was just dry-rotted."

However, the sisters know they are lucky in the grand scheme of things.

"We didn't lose everything. We had people in surrounding neighborhoods lose everything," says Blackmon.

While Yerger's home is back to normal, and Blackmon's is almost complete... they know nothing replaces the value of family.

"They're just walls, and they're just things," says Yerger. "They can be replaced. Yeah, it stinks that is happened, but in the grand scheme of things, things can be replaced, people can't."

Like family, one house away.