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The Day He Moved in, the Waters Rose


METAIRIE, La. (AP) _ One month after winning custody of his five sons, Randy Voss lost his job as a tool and die maker. He got a new job and a house in suburban New Orleans, then watched floodwater overtake his car, sofa, washer and dryer the very day they moved in.

``I haven’t even been able to get to the Red Cross to get any cleaning supplies,″ he said Saturday. ``I haven’t been able to get no food vouchers, clothing vouchers.″

Voss’s house was among tens of thousands damaged by flooding in southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi last week. Some areas got as much as 18 inches of rain in six hours Monday, and 24 inches in two days.

Voss had planned to start his new job Wednesday at Intralox, the company that paid for his move from Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.

His supervisor at Intralox, which makes plastic conveyor belts, understands all too well why Voss couldn’t make it to work.

``We lost probably 80 percent of our belongings, so I can certainly relate to him,″ said Intralox tooling supervisor Forrest Riley, who was flooded out as well.

Another Intralox employee, Hank Walton, will be giving Voss rides to and from work until he can get a new car. Walton said he also planned to take Voss out to the Red Cross and Salvation Army offices.

Until he starts work, however, Voss is scraping by.

``My neighbors have been feeding us,″ he said.

Folks in these parts are astonishingly generous, said Riley, who moved from Fort Worth, Texas, to Louisiana about 10 months ago and into a house in Destrehan two months ago.

``Our neighbors across the street took us in. We slept there three, four nights. ... Almost total strangers let us in and give us meals.″

Damage covered by insurance is expected to run up at least 100,000 claims for up to $3 billion, Gov. Edwin Edwards said.

Seven deaths were blamed on the flooding: six in Louisiana and one in Mississippi. Twelve Louisiana parishes were declared federal disaster areas, as were three Mississippi counties.

The moving van brought Voss’ belongings Monday, and the water started rising that night. He said he was able to move some of his furniture and his computer up to the second floor, but his sofa, refrigerator, washer and dryer spent the night in 2 feet of water. His 1987 car was in water up to the windows.

``I got no insurance. Hey, money only goes so far when you’ve got kids and no support from the ex-wife,″ Voss said.

He and his wife divorced in January 1994. In October, she left the boys with him for a weekend visit and didn’t return until February, he said. After that, he went to court to get custody.

His youngest boy is 4; the oldest, 14, is in a psychiatric treatment center, Voss said.

The boys had to wear the same clothes for several days. Most of their clothing was on the first floor and Voss could not wash anything until Friday, when a neighbor offered his laundry room.

``He let me do laundry all day yesterday. And he gave me $20 so I could go get some groceries,″ Voss said.

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