Author’s Purpose As you read,
think about why the author wrote this
article and what she wants you to learn.
LOOK FOR WORD NERD’S
9 WORDS IN BOLD
On August 29, 2016, I received an email
from Margaret Boudreaux [boo-DROH], a
Storyworks teacher at Episcopal School in
Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
“We have just suffered a great flood, a
thousand-year flood,” she wrote. “Much of our
school was damaged, and many of our students
and teachers lost their homes.”
I had been reading about the devastating flooding that
had struck Louisiana just weeks before. In the city of
Baton Rouge, many areas were under 10 feet of water.
Thousands of people had lost everything they owned.
But that was only one part of the story that Mrs.
Boudreaux and her students wanted to share with me.
“This disaster brought out the good in people,” she wrote.
“People rushed to help each other. My students and I invite you to
visit us, to meet boys and girls who can tell you this story firsthand.”
And so last November, I flew down to Baton Rouge to meet the
inspiring kids and teachers of Episcopal.
4 STORYWORKS STORYWORKS.SCHOLASTIC.COM SEPTEMBER 2017 5
This is their story.
This is their story.
Turned to Water
You’ll meet these amazing people in this story:
Addisyn Dell Skyler Mrs. Boudreaux
COAST GUARD PHOTO BY PETTY OFFICER 1ST CLASS MELISSA LEAKE (FLOOD); TIM MUELLER/AP IMAGES FOR SCHOLASTIC INC. (ALL OTHER IMAGES)
the Louisiana Flood
of 2016 BY LAUREN TARSHIS
Main Idea and Supporting Details As you read,
think about how a community responded to a disaster. LOOK FOR WORD NERD’S 10
WORDS IN BOLD
OUR BEHIND- THE-SCENES
always been safe from
flooding. So does the
But soon, even
“safe” areas of the city
would be in grave
morning, Skyler, who
had slept at his friend’s
house, was awakened by
the sound of his phone.
It was a call from his mother.
“I’m outside,” she said. “The house is
flooded. Everything is gone.”
In Dell’s neighborhood near Episcopal,
water rushed through the streets. The school’s
athletic fields had turned into lakes, complete
with lapping waves.
The Botos family woke up to see water in
their road. By 7 a.m., they decided to leave
in Mr. Botos’s big pickup truck. But they had
barely made it down the driveway when the
water suddenly began to rise very quickly.
“It just rushed in,” says Mrs. Botos.
The water caused the truck’s engine to die.
Water gushed up through the bottom of the
truck. “First our feet were wet,” Mrs. Botos says.
“Then we had water up to our waists and then
Being in a car or truck when even just a
few inches of water are on a roadway can be
extremely dangerous. Two feet of water can lift
a massive pickup or SUV and turn it on its side
or sweep it away like a bath toy. Water pushes
against the doors, sometimes making them
impossible to open and trapping passengers
inside. Every year, dozens of people in vehicles
lose their lives trying to escape floods.
Luckily, Mrs. Botos managed to break a
window. Somehow the kids in back were able
to ram open one of the truck doors. Sixteen-
was up to her neck
in freezing, filthy
It was August
13, 2016, and
devastating floods were sweeping
across Louisiana. In Addisyn’s Baton
Rouge neighborhood, the waters
had risen so quickly that she and her
parents, two brothers, and sister had
become trapped. They were caught outside
their flooded house as stinking brown water
rushed all around them.
Shivering and terrified, Addisyn gripped
a wooden post so the powerful current
wouldn’t sweep her away. With each
passing minute, the water was getting higher
“I’ve never been so scared,” Addisyn
How would she and her family escape?
A Rainy Morning
Two days earlier, on Thursday, August
11, few people in Baton Rouge could have
imagined that their city would soon be in ruins.
Outside, the morning sky was gray and
rainy. But inside Episcopal School, the mood
was sunny with excitement. It was orientation
day—a time to meet new teachers and catch
STORYWORKS.SCHOLASTIC.COM SEPTEMBER 2017 7
up with old friends. The hallways buzzed with
students in their crisp blue and plaid uniforms,
their hair combed and curled for pictures.
Addisyn was thrilled to start fifth grade.
Sixth-grader Skyler Adams and his pals
swapped stories about summer adventures.
Seventeen-year-old Dell Portwood was psyched
for his senior year on Episcopal’s football team.
“We were all so happy to start school the
next day,” says Mrs. Boudreaux, who teaches
fifth-grade language arts. “We weren’t worried
about a little rain,” she adds.
What Boudreaux and the other teachers
and students of Episcopal School did not know
was that the rain was part of a dangerous and
unusual storm system. Weather forecasters were
growing increasingly alarmed. A large amount
of moisture in the air was producing unusually
heavy rain. It was as though millions of fire
hoses were hanging from the sky, all turned on
Most worrisome? The storm was moving
slowly. That meant it would hover over Baton
Rouge, pouring down rain, for days.
That morning, the National Weather
Service sent out a flash flood warning for parts
of Baton Rouge. Flash floods happen when
great quantities of rain fall over a short period
of time. With little warning, lazy rivers, quiet
streams, and peaceful creeks explode into
powerful torrents of churning water. Every
year, an average of 130 Americans die in
A Disaster Taking Shape
Already, two of Baton Rouge’s main
rivers—the Amite [AY-meet] and the Comite
[COH-meet]—were starting to creep up over
their banks. Those rivers connect to many small
tributaries—creeks and streams and brooks that
squiggle into almost all corners of Baton Rouge.
A flooding disaster was taking shape.
The next day, Friday, most schools across
Baton Rouge—including Episcopal—were
closed because of flooded roadways. But those
living near Episcopal felt safe.
“We had never flooded before,” says Dell,
who lives near the school.
Skyler’s family also lives in an area that had
0 50 MI
Gulf of Mexico
L O U I S I A
The Botos’s truck, after their escape.
Top: A young man tries to save some of his
possessions from the floodwaters.
Volunteers used their own
boats to rescue people from
flooded homes and roads.
ANNIE WENTZELL/GETTY IMAGES (BACKGROUND); JONATHAN BACHMAN/REUTERS (MAN); TRUCK PHOTO PROVIDED
BY BOTOS FAMILY/TIM MUELLER/AP IMAGES FOR SCHOLASTIC INC.; JIM MCMAHON/MAPMAN® (MAP)
JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES (VOLUNTEERS)
STORYWORKS.SCHOLASTIC.COM SEPTEMBER 2017 9
Why does the Episcopal community feel fortunate even though they lost so much?
Send a letter explaining what you learned to “Flood Contest” by Nov. 1, 2017;
we will forward it to Mrs. Boudreaux’s students. Ten winners will each receive a
copy of I Survived Hurricane Katrina by Lauren Tarshis. See page 2 for details.
WRITE TO WIN
everything they owned—furniture, computers,
photos, clothing. Even a small amount of
water in a home can
cause extensive damage.
When the water
recedes, it leaves behind
a sickening sludge of
mud, oil, dead worms,
and other filth. Carpets
must be ripped out and
replaced. Damp and
moldy walls must be
teachers joined together
to help people clean
their homes, haul away
trash, and salvage things that had escaped
the waters. Donations poured in.
“It was amazing what people did for us,”
says Skyler, whose home took many months
year-old Marcus grabbed
hold of 8-year-old Brennen.
Addisyn held tight to her
mom as her dad freed their
two dogs from their crates
in the back. Slowly, the
family pushed their way
through the deep water and
back toward the house. Mr.
Botos used straps from his
truck to tie the family and
dogs together so nobody
would be swept away by
the powerful current.
They had escaped from
the truck. But now they were stranded. And the
water was getting higher and higher.
Across Baton Rouge and surrounding towns,
emergency operators were receiving frantic calls
“I’m stuck in my car!”
“We’re on the roof of our house!”
“Please help us!”
From the sky, Baton Rouge seemed more like
a lake than a city. Church spires and rooftops
poked out of brown, rippling water. Partially
submerged cars looked like shiny sea creatures.
In a nearby city, caskets from a flooded cemetery
rose out of the soaked ground and floated down
A Volunteer Navy
Meanwhile, the Botos family huddled
together in the freezing water, which stunk of
oil and gas. Adding to their misery: The water
was swarming with fire ants, which stung their
arms and legs. Hours passed, but there seemed
to be no escape—and nobody who could help
them. Rescue workers were overwhelmed. Fire
trucks were stranded.
But as flooding worsened, the people of
Baton Rouge began to mobilize to help each
other. By mid-morning, a “navy” of volunteers
had taken to the flooded streets in their own
“That’s Just Stuff”
The Louisiana Flood of 2016 was the worst
natural disaster in America since Hurricane
Sandy in 2012. The storm dumped a staggering
3 feet of rain in some areas. That’s three times as
much as fell during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Thirteen people died; an estimated 143,000
homes flooded. More than a year later, many
people still struggle with the losses they suffered.
Nine schools in the city remained closed all year.
Thousands of students have been crowded into
schools many miles from their homes.
Compared with so many across Louisiana,
the people within the Episcopal community were
fortunate. Episcopal reopened just a week after
the flood. The damaged gym and fields were
repaired within months. Dell and the football
team played a winning
season. Most important,
continued to rally around
those who needed help.
Like so many at
Episcopal, the Botos
family looks back on
their experience mainly
with gratitude. Addisyn
misses the treasures she
lost—her jewelry, her
dolls, her Bible. But as
her mom says, “That’s
“We’ve gained so much more than we lost,”
Mrs. Botos goes on. “The lessons we’ve learned
are so amazing. We feel that we have been
blessed beyond our imagination.”
Addisyn agrees. “We are very lucky.” n
boats. Mrs. Boudreaux’s 22-year-old son,
Elliott, was one of hundreds of people who
helped pluck neighbors from rooftops and cars.
They climbed through windows to help the
elderly and disabled. They comforted crying
children and calmed jittery cats and dogs.
It was one of these boats, piloted by an old
friend of Mrs. Botos’s, that finally rescued the
family. They were taken to a gas station. When
that area flooded, a second boat took them to a
parking lot. It wasn’t until late that afternoon
that a huge army truck brought them to a fire
station, where Addisyn’s aunt was able to pick
After nearly nine agonizing hours, at last
the family was safe and dry.
“What Can I Do?”
Even before the floodwaters cleared, the
Episcopal School community was coming
together. Those who had been spared flooding
worked to help those in need. Dell’s family was
among the fortunate; their house did not flood.
“All I could think was, how can I help?”
Dell says. “What can I do? What can I do?”
The answer: a lot.
Throughout southern Louisiana, thousands
of people returned to their homes to find
scenes of complete ruin. Many people lost
JONATHAN BACHMAN/REUTERS (BACKGROUND); ZHANG CHAOQUN/NEWSCOM (DAMAGED HOME)
The flood cleanup lasted for months, as people
hauled trash from their damaged homes.
The Botos Family: Mallory, 13; Brennen, 8; Marcus,
16; Ben (dad), Addisyn, 12, and Michelle (mom).
ZHANG CHAOQUN XINHUA/EYEVINE/REDUX (CLEANUP); TIM MUELLER/AP IMAGES FOR SCHOLASTIC INC. (BOTOS FAMILY)