Wading Through the Damage of the Historic Flooding in Louisiana

August 24th, 2016 by Katherine Coig

“It is the worst I have ever seen, and I have lived through my fair share of disasters here in Louisiana,” says Burns Mulhearn, president of Geoshield in Baton Rouge, La.

After the record-flooding hit southeastern Louisiana last week, many tint shops, and people alike, are at a loss on where to go from here. But, being no stranger to disaster, leave it to the people of Louisiana to come together to make sure rebuilding the community and helping one another cope comes above all else.

“I don’t think people understand how bad this was,” says Mulhearn. “We lost at least 40,000 homes. It affected a huge area—not just Baton Rouge—but from Lafayette to New Orleans.” Devastation and loss on a scale like that is hard to imagine, even for the people going through it. “This was our Katrina,” he explains.

“A lot of these tint shops didn’t have flood insurance because it’s not part of the insurance package. We’ve replaced film for some of the companies that didn’t have it,” says Mulhearn. “But everyone is helping everyone rebuild. It’s at an unbelievable pace as far as that goes. We have a lot of hardworking people, but it’s changed the landscape of our parish for sure.”

Cubby Wolfe, Geoshield’s vice president of operations, has been out on his boat ever since the flood waters came rushing in, rescuing people and helping both neighbors and strangers gut out what’s left of their homes.

Wolfe, pictured left, rescuing woman suffering from seizure during the flood.

Wolfe, pictured left, rescuing woman suffering from seizure during the flood.

With the flood waters being upwards of six feet in areas, some local tint shops are left wondering when they’ll start to see business again.

“The interstates were shut down for a week. Window tint isn’t exactly what’s on everyone’s mind,” says Mulhearn.

Despite the bleak outlook, Russell Bourgeois, owner of Auto Evolutions in Livingston, La., expresses such gratitude for the people that surround him and the companies that once competed with him.

“Comparably, I’m peaches and cream. I feel almost embarrassed talking about it because at the end of the day, I’m fortunate enough to still have a home to come back to while so many others don’t,” says Bourgeois.

Bourgeois’ shop had an estimated three- to three-and-a-half-feet of water, depending on where he stood in the shop. Any film rolls he had that were near the ground or on his wall-rack have been completely ruined.

“Ever wonder what water displacing oil looks like in a car engine? Well, I had two motorcycles in my garage that each hold three quarts of oil—but when I emptied them, there were two-gallons of water in each,” he explains. “When the water fills and pushes the oil to the top, it comes out. Everything in my shop is covered with oil film and river silt.”

Most tint-shops are a one-man show, maybe a few employees, so competition is fierce. Nevertheless, neighbors are neighbors—at least for Baton Rouge and surrounding parishes—and they will always lend a helping hand, no matter the cost to them.

“Zane Belle with Tint Masters and Bydrick Harrington of B and B Window Tinting reached out to me—Zane actually showed up with his work gloves on asking what he could do to help,” explains Bourgeois. “Bydrick, well he’s been around for a while—went through Katrina—and he’s called me a few times to give me advice on how to handle the situation. To repay them, I’ve just been referring all my customers to them.”

But the support he’s received doesn’t end there. Bourgeois has had numerous calls, local and international, offering to help him in any way that they could—suppliers, competitors, fellow tinters and shop owners. He’s humbled by the graciousness the tinting-industry has shown him.

Whether you’ve lived in an area your whole life, or established yourself there recently, there’s nothing that can prepare you to be ready to sort through what’s left of your livelihood—all you’ve worked for in your life, all the memories you’ve shared there and now lost. Knowing you have to go back inside, assess the damage done, materialize all that was lost—well, it’s hard to conceptualize, but with good-hearted people surrounding you, the tint-shop owners and people of the community are prepared enough to see it through with the help of each other.

“You know going into this, I already had a feeling I would get the help I needed. It’s easy when you’re in a place like this. The support is mind-boggling,” says Bourgeois.

This article is from Focus on Film, the weekly e-newsletter that covers the latest news regarding window film and related products, including paint protection film. Click HERE to sign up—there is no charge. Interested in a deeper dive? Free subscriptions to Window Film magazine in print or digital format are available. Subscribe at no charge HERE.

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