When Mike Holmes took his crew to New Orleans to rebuild a home destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, he was shocked by the damage that remained nearly three years after the destructive storm.
“You go downtown New Orleans, it’s a beautiful old city and everything looks fine, you go ten minutes outside the city and there’s devastation everywhere,” he said.
In the Lower 9th Ward, the hardest hit district when the levees broke, shattered glass, shrubs and rusting cars still lie in 12-foot high piles, he said.
“And to this day, the streetlights are still not turned on.”
Holmes, famous for his HGTV show Holmes on Homes in which he helps homeowners repair bungled renovation projects, spent almost three months in the broken city last summer building a disaster-proof home for a family in need.
The result — Holmes in New Orleans — will aired on Global in a two-hour, two-night special this week.
It will air on HGTV in a six-hour, six-week series starting tonight at 8 p.m. ET.
Both broadcasts chronicle Holmes and his crew as they work through a sweltering Louisiana summer and torrential rainstorms to build a LEED-platinum certified home able to withstand a category five hurricane.
“So if the levees ever broke, it’s not going to knock it over, it’s not going to wash away, it’s not going to fall down,” said the affable handyman.
The show includes a guest appearance by Brad Pitt, founder of the Make it Right New Orleans Foundation.
Holmes connected with Pitt after Katrina hit because the actor’s foundation challenges architects and builders to help rebuild the Lower 9th Ward sustainably.
During the 10 weeks they spent in the Big Easy, Holmes and his crew rebuilt the home of Gloria Guy who, just before Katrina, became the caregiver of a brood of grandchildren.
The 68-year-old tells a harrowing tale of being trapped by the flood after the hurricane and using a hatchet to free herself from the attic, climbing onto her roof and waiting 10 hours to be rescued.
“The show isn’t just about building a house, it’s really what happened to the people,” said Holmes. “And in between you’re going to see the world’s best house being built.”
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