As the floodwaters steadily rose, John Schneider kept checking his phone.
Ever since John Schneider Studios, a 59-acre plot in Holden where the actor/director films his movies, suffered major flooding in 2016, Schneider said he has kept the National Weather Service “on speed dial.”
He checks it whenever there’s a storm, and after Hurricane Ida smacked into Louisiana, he was checking it even more, trying to get the latest information on projected flood stages.
Initially, they weren’t promising.
At first, forecasters were predicting the Tickfaw River at Holden would crest at around 21.6 feet, just shy of the all-time high in August 2016 when the river crested at just over 22 feet.
But “thankfully” the river crested much sooner than was initially predicted, with Schneider calling it “a delightful sight” to look on his phone and see the river going down.
“We were prepared to be about six inches below the worst flood ever,” Schneider said. “Thankfully, that didn’t happen.”
Still, Schneider — like many others in eastern Livingston Parish — wasn’t spared from flooding, nor Ida’s wrath.
Dozens of trees were thrown down across John Schneider Studios during Ida’s movement through the area, leading to a prolonged power outage that was only recently fixed.
Though one “very mature pine tree” missed his barn in the back, it “ripped up” a nearby stage. In the front of the property, a tree fell atop the General Lee, the iconic car from Schneider’s star-making show “Dukes of Hazzard.”
Meanwhile, another tree also crashed into Mrs. Shirley’s, the house Schneider bought for his late mother and later converted into a gift shop named in her honor. He was able to save some memorabilia by moving items to a nearby shed.
The house, however, won’t be saved.
“My mom’s house will have to be torn down,” he said. “There’s not really much to salvage out of that.”
Flooding also occurred on the studio grounds, much like other parts of eastern Livingston Parish. Schneider said the buildings in the back were “full of water” and that the swimming pool was “full of debris and mud and silt.” He was able to save some movie-making equipment by placing items “on tables and anything we could.”
“Because 2016 was so bad, we were ready,” he said.
Despite the damage, the grounds have power and are "up and running," allowing Schneider and his team to move forward with pre-planned events taking place this weekend at John Schneider Studios.
On Saturday, people are invited to celebrate first responders and law enforcement in an event that will commemorate the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago. Gates for free event open at 4:30 p.m., and it will include a movie showing, meet-and-greets, food, and a concert featuring Schneider, Keith Burns, and Cody McCarver.
“We’re going to have a great time remembering a terrible time and also raising up our first responders and law enforcement,” Schneider said.
During the event, people will be able to donate to families of first responders who died in the line of duty. Proceeds from photo ops will also benefit first responders, who Schneider said, “keep us safe on a good day, but they’ve been working overtime the last 10 days.”
Though the event was planned well in advance of Hurricane Ida, Schneider said it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“During this time, I hope that people realize our law enforcement and firefighters and first responders are there for us, rain or shine, summer or winter, republican or democrat,” Schneider said. “They are always there, and this is our opportunity to thank them.”
On Sunday, Church at Singing Waters will hold its first service, beginning at 10 a.m. The church will be a new campus of Church at Addis, and Rev. Tom Shepard said it will bring “counseling opportunities, disaster relief, and much more to enhance and make better the surrounding communities!”
“We’re bringing some tremendous people and great spirit to our little community here,” Schneider said.
While preparing for this weekend’s events and cleaning the storm's wreckage, Schneider and other volunteers have also been feeding linemen working near his studios. This week, he drove around passing out breakfast sandwiches and pancakes to workers that arrived in more than 50 trucks.
Schneider reflected on the aftermath of the storm, saying it “speaks well for humanity” the way people have banded together to help one another in this time of need.
“We’ve got a really great community here in Livingston Parish,” Schneider said. “I see people coming together to help their neighbors in need and strangers in need. There are people out there helping folks they’ve never met or will never see again. It speaks well for humanity.”