Cajun Navy rescues Chasse Hollow family in thigh-deep water

Published 2:18 pm Wednesday, September 27, 2017

By Anne Payne

The Orange Leader

The Mike Lemons family has seen its fair share of natural disasters:  blinding dust storms in New Mexico, biting mosquitoes in Alaska, crumbling earthquakes in California, whirling tornadoes in Illinois and Ohio, freezing below-zero temperatures and the 1972 Rapid City flood in South Dakota, flooding in West Virginia, and now horrendous hitting by Hurricane Harvey in Orange, Texas.  Air Force Reserves Lt. Col. (Ret.) Mike Lemons can always say his wife and four grown children have seen the United States of America, as well as the natural acts of the environment, in his military travels, as well as in his jobs in paper mills across the USA.  He also endured hardships in Guam and the Philippines while on military assignments.

Born in Clovis, New Mexico, Michael and wife, Carolyn Franks Lemons, a Hobbs, NM native, spent a life traveling with military and paper plants, along with two sons and two daughters:  Michael Lemons, II, of San Antonio; Sean Lemons of Stanton, CA; Melissa Lemons Warner of Tampa, FL, and Rebecca Lemons, PhD., who recently relocated from the Orange LCM area after Hurricane Harvey to Tampa with son, Francisco.

Mike and Carolyn were residents of Orange for two days when the couple, Carolyn’s mother (the late Martha Franks), and their animals, were forced to evacuate to Nacogdoches, Texas, for a hurricane in 2002, which resulted in the storm heading a different direction.

Twice more, in 2005 and 2008, the family left for higher ground when Hurricanes Rita and Ike roared into town.  Neither of these storms brought water into their home, and even the Deweyville Flood of March 2016, only blew a small amount of water into their garage.  Hence, Mike had no reason to believe the waters of Hurricane Harvey would cause his home to be ravaged by the Category Four Harvey.  However, he was badly mistaken.

The family had to be rescued at their Chasse Hollow door by a now-famous Cajun Navy boat.  The family evacuees included Mike, Carolyn, Becky, Francisco, two dogs, and two cats in carriers.  Taken immediately by boat to Little Cypress Intermediate School, they were soon transferred by a “high-off-the ground” pick-up to Lake Charles, LA.  Meanwhile, Mike had suffered a serious foot injury in the storm, and he was taken to a Lake Charles emergency room for treatment.  They were finally all retrieved by both their older son and daughter and driven to Midland, Texas, to Carolyn’s sister and brother-in-law’s home.

Becky and Francisco left Midland with sister Melissa for Tampa, where they permanently relocated.

Carolyn soon returned to Orange, without an injured Mike, to face the devastation of their beautiful home, now filled with water, mold, and an awful scent, along with their vehicles, totaled with unrepairable damage.

Graciously, a neighbor invited Carolyn to stay while appropriate adjustors from USAA and FEMA were contacted.  The next few days were dismal and depressing, as Carolyn noted the horrific powers of Harvey’s storm surge upon the home she had once so painstakingly decorated.  The woman is a “tough cookie,” so to work she went, making mental notes continually.  Carolyn has served the Orange Community as president of both the Service League of Orange and the Orange County Friends (OCF), as well as being an avid bridge player with her husband in several area groups.  The former math teacher was also involved in her college life community in Delta Zeta sorority.