Story by Sarah Combs, Assistant Sports Editor
While thousands watched the tragic events of the Louisiana flooding unfold, two members of the Murray State basketball family were experiencing the events right at their front door.
Senior guard, Gee McGee from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and sophomore guard, Kacie Fountain from Walker, Louisiana, live 20 minutes apart.
When the flooding began on Aug. 12, McGee, Murray State’s 6-foot-5 inch, 225– pound guard was at home, preparing to return to campus for the semester.
McGee was home for break, after summer workouts before the semester began and originally planned to return to campus two days after the flooding began. McGee woke up at 6:30 a.m. Aug. 12 and noticed the flooding but didn’t consider it a big deal. When his father woke him up at 7:30 a.m., their house had began to flood and that’s when he realized there was a problem. His family retrieved sandbags to help stop the flooding but after that didn’t help, they decided to leave.
“I didn’t understand what happened, I mean Katrina was different,” McGee said. “When we woke up, it was just real. Are you gonna leave or are you gonna be without everything just grab whatever you can? It was one of those situations.”
McGee’s car was underwater when the family finally attempted to leave so they tried his mother’s truck. They had to put the truck in neutral and push it a mile up the road, alongside kayaks and boats, McGee said.
“It was to the point where if you didn’t get out, you would have to be rescued by a boat or by the Navy who was coming to help people,” McGee said. “It was something like, if you didn’t rescue yourself then somebody would have to come get you on the boat because it was too high to walk.”
When the flood waters initially started rising, McGee FaceTimed Head Coach Matt McMahon to show him the scene.
“I’ll never forget it,” McMahon said. “In the background, you could see a boat going down a street.”
McGee’s family found solace at his grandmother’s because I-12-55 was blocked by water. Curfews were implemented and wouldn’t allow passing traffic. McGee would ultimately arrive four days late for the semester.
McGee said he is preparing for a solid senior year with the support of his coaching staff, teammates and family back home. He said the support and strength from McGee’s family is what has given McGee the ability to adjust to being on campus and focus on finishing out his career.
On the day Kacie Fountain was supposed to return from Summer Break, she said flood waters covered her driveway and the river crested double over the limit, causing her house to flood. After rebuilding the highway, no holes were designed under them in order to drain any flood water.
After the flooding began to creep closer to the house, Fountain said her family started packing traveling bags. After the water reached the electrical sockets, she said they decided to leave their home.
“When the water was getting almost close to the house we all came together as a family and decided just in case we do have to be evacuated, have a travel bag to get most of the salvageable items we could take out,” Fountain said. “About when the water was almost to the outlets, that’s when my family and I decided that, you know, it’s time to get out.”
Fountain said they were never evacuated or told to leave. Fountain’s father had a boat that the family was able to get into and drive over to neighbors to help them as well.
After Fountain and her family got out of the flood waters, they found a hotel and began traveling back and forth to begin cleanup.
“We just begin the process,” Fountain said, “You have to gut the house, you have to take up the floors and all that good stuff.”
Fountain said the decision to leave her team and not return to Murray was difficult. She also said she didn’t want to leave her family to the house repairs alone.
Fountain said the water receded the next day and they were able to come back and start gutting the house.
“The mindset – my parent’s definitely weren’t happy, they are very stressed – but the mindset that we have each other and we didn’t lose each other,” Fountain said. “We’ve just been trying to stay optimistic.”
Head Coach Rob Cross said seeing the visuals on the media coverage and the inability to get in touch with Fountain due to cell towers being down was tough.
Federal Emergency Management Agency and other programs and organizations are providing relief to the uninsured home and business owners of Louisiana.
With such a large flooding and limited federal aid available, FEMA has started setting qualifications for who can receive aid. The help will be limited, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said in an article on weather.com.
“There is some help available, but it is limited and it is not automatic,” Edwards said.
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser commented on the hard work of volunteers helping to bridge the gap between the funds available for property owners without insurance.
“The real challenge is going to be with the little bit of money they’re going to get, if you didn’t have flood insurance, to bridge that with the volunteers through VolunteerLouisiana.gov,” Nungesser said.
Fountain has accepted a semester exemption through Senior Associate Athletic Director Matt Kelly for Fall 2016 and will return in January for Spring 2017. The exemption will work like taking a timeout. Her court eligibility clock will stop and she will pick up where she left off without any repercussions in the spring. When she returns, Fountain will redshirt for the rest of the year. She will sit out for the season but will still be able to practice and work out with the team.
While she takes off a semester from college, Fountain said her and her family have been working to gut their house and make repairs. This week, they, along with their neighbors, have been taking everything out of their house and making a big pile to be picked up this week.