Leader Blues

Friday, September 05, 2008

TOP STORY > >Families safe after flood

By JONATHAN FELDMAN
Leader staff writer

Hurricane Gustav dumped more than seven inches of rain in the area by midmorning Wednesday. Many streets and neighborhoods quickly flooded.

A small neighborhood in Jacksonville near Northeastern Avenue and Loop Road took on at least two feet of water in about a half an hour. Residents watched nervously as the water began to rise. The water did not recede until about 6:30 that evening.

The neighborhood is made up of 70 trailers on just two streets, Leonard Drive and Piñon Lane. It is a community of young families who know their neighbors.

The water was high enough to strand people in their homes. Police and firemen worried that damaged electrical wires posedfatal risks, according to residents.

On Thursday, residents shared their stories with each other as they cleaned up the mess caused by the flash flood.

Around 11 a.m., Tom Hughes, of Leonard Drive, corked a hole in his aluminum boat, and along with neighbor Bryan Duffel, began to rescue his stranded neighbors.

“It’s not every day that you see your neighbors going up and down your street in a boat,” Hughes said.

Half a dozen or so neighbors were glad when they escorted them to higher land.

Hughes and Duffel continued their rescue efforts until firemen and police warned them about the risks of electrical shocks.

This was not the first time that the neighborhood had flooded. “About seven years ago, the same thing happened, but not nearly as bad,” Duffel said.

The neighborhood sits atop a floodplain, but residents say their troubles are exacerbated by new real estate developments in the area that lack sufficient drainage.

Jim Minot and his wife Carol, who live on Leonard Drive, tried to wait out the high water. At about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, the water was just low enough for them to drive through in their pickup truck.

City administrator Jay Whisker said that the park is five feet below the flood plain and would not be allowed under today’s standards.

But residents are convinced the city can do more to fix their flood problems.

“I think the city needs to take a look at this. If they don’t, eventually we’re all going to lose our homes,” Mrs. Minot said. “This
was the worst rain I’ve seen in the 13 years I’ve lived in Arkansas.

“I’m going to talk to my neighbors and start a petition to get the mayor’s attention,” she continued.

The Minots once had flood insurance, but they decided to stop buying it when their bank told them that it no longer considered their home to be on a flood plain.

Damage to their home was minimal, but some of their property in a storage shed had been exposed to the water for hours.

Hughes was also recently contacted by his bank regarding flood insurance. He says that his bank urged him to purchase it because his home was, in fact, on a flood plain.

Nichole Grady was stranded in her home with her infant daughter, while her husband Billy was at work. When he heard that water had engulfed the neighborhood, he rushed home to help his family.

He couldn’t believe that the water could rise so fast, he said. When he arrived, firemen had taken his wife and daughter out of the flooded area in an aluminum boat.

The Gradys’ home was not seriously damaged in the flood. Their laundry room will need some work because of water damage, and Billy had to take the family car to a mechanic for repairs.

“It was like someone pulled the plug and it went away as fast as it came up,” Duffel said, referring to all the water that disappeared.