WATSON -- Christmas will come almost two months early for Peggy Ott.
The Watson resident will soon enjoy the comforts of the home she has not occupied since August of 2016.
Ott credits the Restore Louisiana Task Force homeowner program for bringing her back into the home she has occupied since 1994.
“I’m so very blessed,” said Ott, 84, as she strolled through her home, which contractors gutted after it took in more than three feet of water during the Great Flood of 2016.
It closes the book on a chapter on a part of life Ott would rather forget.
She received the phone call from her daughter Sue Ellen, who got the alert from 911 of a “life or death” evacuation.
The current swept Ott’s car from her driveway and wiped out many of the keepsakes she accumulated over the years.
“I lost so many family pictures,” she said. “I wasn’t able to save a whole lot after the flood.”
Damp insulation forced contractors to do a full-scale removal of drywall. Once they finished, not much was left of the house.
“All we had left was studs,” she said. “They even took out the commodes, bathtubs and cabinets.”
Ott stayed in an apartment the first two months after the flood and slept in a camper parked in her driveway. She later took refuge with her granddaughter in a trailer directly behind the house.
She was not sure she would be able to return to her home.
“It’s heartbreaking because at this age, you’re not allowed to make more money,” Ott said.
She sought the help of the homeowner’s program through the Restore Louisiana Task Force in July, which got the ball rolling on the return home.
Ott got approval after she completed the application process for the program.
“It was slow, but I’m not complaining because there was so much left to do to get started,” she said. “They’ve only been here two weeks, but they’ve done wonders.”
Ott did not expect the quick pace at which contractors have moved through the rebuild.
The Restore Louisiana Task Force conducts an extensive inspection before the homeowner returns, said Nick Speyrer, who handles applicant relations for the Restore Louisiana Task Force.
“When you’re dealing with a federal program, which is where this money came from, you have to dot the I’s and cross the T’s,” he said. “We have to be very diligent and prudent with the assessments, but we’re making sure we’ve properly replaced, rebuilt and restored.”
Ott said she could not complain because she feared a return to the home would be out of her price range.
“I couldn’t have done this one my own,” she said.
Ott already had plans for her return home as she strolled through the area between the kitchen and living room area.
“I’m doing Christmas dinner this year,” she said. “In the other room, I’ll have the biggest Christmas tree I can find.”