THE JOURNEY HOME: ORLANDO BATTISONI AND FAMILY
A HUMAN TRAGEDY
Editor’s Note: The following is a story of a local family after Harvey. This is just one of thousands of stories. This one is told by Pastor Charles Johnson of Way Makers Disaster Action Network, a group of Katrina survivors that are paying back the kindnesses they received when a hurricane much like Harvey destroyed much of their home state of Louisiana.
Orlando Battistoni and his family lived in his house on N FM 646 for 40 years before Hurricane Harvey hit. A widower whose daughter, Tracey, lived with him at the time the devastation from Harvey occurred, Mr. Battistoni was independent, proud and a man who treasured his home, life and family. Shortly before Harvey hit, the Texas Department of Transportation rebuilt State Highway 646 which runs parallel to his home on N FM 646. Flooding first occurred in his house with the initial heavy rain after the highway reconstruction. And then, Hurricane Harvey added insult to injury as their home took on more than 2 feet of water after the storm. His daughter, Tracey, stated “This last year has been a real struggle, the state put in a new road and they sand bagged the ditches, so they could put in new ditches and [they] raised the road, which caused us along with others on N FM 646 to flood. It was just a heavy rain one day in May I believe. We had to tear out all the carpet and flooring and base boards and a foot of wall along the bottom of the walls. Then in August Harvey hits and we flood worse. I had to help my dad get out of bed and to the car [because] he was 78 years old and slow at the time. When Harvey hit my father was still driving his car, dressing himself, he was self-sufficient.”
W-DAN (Way Maker Ministries’ -Disaster Action Network ) principals experienced Hurricane Katrina and we understood many of the most vulnerable individuals who were elderly, sick or poor would be the hardest people to make whole after such a devastating natural disaster. We also predicted that some would never recover, and sadly we knew that some would even die. Mr. Battistoni proved to be an example of what we experienced in that he died a little more than one year after Harvey and before the remediation of his home could be completed.
For the Battistoni family, the journey from devastation back to their home was a journey that has not ended though the lights, cameras and attention of media and the larger public has ceased. The tragedy of the storm was exacerbated by the experiences of this family and many others who struggled to maintain their dignity in the face of forced homelessness and in the case of the declining health of Mr. Battistoni.
Although we were able to assist the Battistoni family in its rebuilding and repair needs, we quickly realized to continue to pour resources into remodeling was a futile effort because of the continual flooding that occurred. Consequently, we were able to support the family’s need for mold remediation and assessment of the health of the environment of the home through the engagement of HTX Consulting Services.
HTX Consulting findings included the following:
- Significant drainage issues around the home are causing water intrusion on the north side and east side of the home due to street flooding.
- The interior visual assessment was in satisfactory condition with a musty odor coming from the entire home.
- Relative Humidity in the home was elevated at 66% – 70% above the industry recommended levels of 30% – 60% as per US OSHA Standard Interpretations.
- Moisture content was elevated in the master bedroom and living room carpet above the recommended <15% or less moisture content for industry standards.
The company’s key recommendations included the need to “resolve the drainage issues from the street and ditches on the north side” of the house. Additionally, HTX recommended:
- Remove all porous items damaged by category 3 flood water. This water may contain
unsanitary agents, harmful bacteria and fungi, causing severe discomfort or sickness.
- Category 3 includes water sources from sewage, seawater, rising water from rivers or
streams, ground surface water or standing water.
- Install a drainage system around the north and east side of the home to prevent further
- Install a gutter system around the eves of the home to divert water away from the house.
In addition to mold remediation, our engagement with the Battistoni family also revealed that the electrical work that had been performed by a FEMA Preps team needed an overhaul. The family reported that the breaker box continued to run hot and to be tripped without explanation. We hired WIRED Electrical Services to provide needed repairs. WIRED discovered that numerous wiring problems existed in the home. W-DAN provided resources to redress emergency repairs to ensure that the home would have heating during the winter season. However, the electrical repair needs of this home far exceeded the resources we were able to provide. Although the work done on the breaker box was a quick fix, it was not a permanent fix for the Battistoni family.
The Battistoni family is a microcosm of a larger problem that Harvey and other disaster survivors face. Redressing the presenting problems often involve structural repairs, yet the problems many vulnerable families face far exceed material repairs. Our ability to provide ongoing case management and trauma relief services is a critical component of making these families whole again.