DENHAM SPRINGS -- Adin Putnam remembers hearing a loud knock on his front door in the middle of the night on Saturday, Aug. 13 of 2016.
When Putnam opened the door, standing there with water at his feet was his neighbor Jim “Jimbo” Smith, who pointed to the rapidly flowing floodwaters that were coming down Vine Street in their direction.
Until then, Putnam and his wife Jean had planned to leave their Denham Springs home later Saturday afternoon. But the fast approaching water forced them to immediately change plans.
“It looked like a flippin’ tsunami coming toward us,” recalled Adin nearly a year later as he sat inside the Starbucks coffee house at the corner of Rushing Road and Range Avenue, less than two miles from his house that took in 7 ½ feet of water in the Great Flood of 2016.
Adin and Jean “barely” got their cars out in time before leaving their house 30 minutes after Smith’s arrival. By that time, water had quickly risen from under their feet to their knees.
Since he didn’t have much time to lose, with water already inside his house, Putnam put what he could on the second floor before leaving with his most important possessions.
“I had three things: my wife, my chihuahua (Peanut) and my camera bag,” he said.
That camera bag eventually came in real handy.
Putnam, the owner and founder of Puttknob Photography, LLC in Denham Springs, recently published the book “Rising Above: The Great Flood of 2016,” a 32-page collection of photographs he took documenting the devastating flood last August.
Most of the images were taken three days after the flood when Putnam and four others journeyed by boat to his house and other parts of Denham Springs, mainly along River Road, Florida Boulevard, in the Denham Springs Antique Village and a few surrounding neighborhoods.
Some pictures were taken on boat, some were taken while Putnam walked around town, and some were even taken from roof of his house, which was his only access point for the first few days following the flood.
Others photographs were taken in the weeks and months that followed as Putnam, a Marine Corps veteran who graduated with a history degree from the Citadel Military College in South Carolina, did his best to capture the entire story.
For someone who’s lived in Livingston Parish since 1999, Putnam wanted ensure this historic event was properly recorded — beginning, middle and end.
“The day’s going to come when the people who went through this will want to show it to people they know,” Putnam said. “So I did it more as a way for people to pass on information. That’s the history major in me. I wanted it to have it there and documented.
“I wanted people to be able to look back and say, ‘I was there, and this is what happened.’”
No one living in Livingston Parish at the time of the flood will need Putnam’s book to remind them of it. For many, including Putnam himself, the flood is still an ongoing issue, something that hasn’t yet gone away even a year after the floodwaters receded.
Like so many others, Putnam is still rebuilding his home, which had to be gutted “all the way to the studs” on the bottom floor.
But while working on his home, he also found time to complete “Rising Above.”
He started the project last January and originally published it through a company called MyPublisher. But Putnam had only received three copies of the book when the company closed down May 8, forcing the professional photographer of six years to start from again scratch.
But Putnam, always one to look on the positive side, used the extra time to “fix some things and add more photographs” before eventually publishing it a second time through a self-publishing online platform known as Blurb.
“Rising Above: The Great Flood of 2016” is currently available at www.blurb.com in three formats: a PDF version for $10, a small book version for $45, and a large book version for $75.
But all three versions tell the same story.
There are images of debris lining up and down streets, images of flipped cars barely poking out above water, images of partially-submerged houses, images of the Cajun Navy rescuing people in boats, and — of course — plenty of images of the high floodwaters that swept through Livingston Parish.
There are several eye-popping scenes in the 73-photograph collection, but Adin pointed out to a few in particular while going through the book one Thursday afternoon.
One of his favorite images is the first one people see — and one he almost didn’t get.
On the front cover of “Rising Above” is a picture of his son Jonathan Putnam, who stood in knee-deep water directing a trailer on Florida Boulevard not far from the River Road intersection.
Like most of the flood images, this photograph was taken three days after the Great Flood when Adin and four others journeyed by boat to his flooded home to retrieve his photography equipment.
The flood water had already started receding by the time they made their way back to the truck and trailer, forcing them to move it further down the flooded street in order to load the boat.
Adin recalled there being a light rain at the time, even though the sun was out. He was still standing with his back toward his son when it the rain stopped a few minutes later, but that’s when Lessie Stone, a church friend who had come along with her husband Kevin, told Adin to turn around.
What Adin saw took his breath away: High above Jonathan directing the trailer were two rainbows, which seemed to be stretching directly across Florida Boulevard.
“It was beautiful,” said Adin, recalling the rainbows that were sky high above the flooded street.
Another memorable photo for him was the one he chose for the back cover, which shows debris lined up along Castlewood Street.
This one was taken several weeks after the flood, and what caught Adin’s eye was a “garage sale” sign that stood proudly above an old mattress among the trash for all to see.
He got a big kick out of the sight.
“What I like about it is the humor of it,” he said, laughing from the memory of it. “And at that time, humor was about the only thing we had going.”
There are many other photographs that Adin talked fondly about as he flipped through the pages of the book.
There was the picture of the approaching water he took with his cell phone the morning his neighbor came pounding on his door; there was the one he took of jet skis and four wheelers that had flipped and were submerged outside of Outdoor Powerhouse; there was the one he took of a chair that had floated on top of his kitchen sink.
All these and many more were able to capture the devastation of “the 1,000-year flood,” but Adin made sure to save the last two pages for something he felt was equally important.
He ends the book with a section titled “Recovery,” which features photos of the ongoing rebuilding process.
Trucks are shown collecting “mud-soaked debris,” and volunteers from the local Southern Baptist Convention are captured working on Adin’s flooded-out home.
There are five photos in this last section, and Adin placed a heart-felt parting message above the last two, praising every “resident, volunteer, rescuer, neighbor, stranger” for coming together to get through the unforeseen tragedy.
It was unlike anything he had ever seen.
“That’s how it was: People everywhere helping everybody else,” Putnam said. “That’s the stuff you want to show. You don’t just want to say, ‘Here, this is what happened.’ You want to show neighbors helping neighbors, strangers helping strangers.
“It was an amazing thing to watch.”