Leader Blues

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

TOP STORY >> Sherwood neighborhood floods, city responds

Lynn and John McIntosh of Bronco Lane are spending more time outside to avoid the dampness and mold inside their home caused by last week’s flash flood.

Leader staff writer

Residents of nine homes on Bronco Lane in Sherwood are struggling to put their lives back together after flood waters from Woodruff Creek forced them to flee their homes Thursday night, when almost four inches of rain fell within a five-hour period.

On Monday, area residents affected by the flood watched as city workers loaded garbage trucks with their belongings, which had been reduced to rubbish by rushing water that swept through their houses.

The low-lying stretch of Bronco Lane is in a floodplain. It has a history of flooding. Long-time residents say this time was the worst they had ever experienced.

The monsoon-like rains ran off ground already saturated from recent downpours, quickly filling the creek and concrete culvert behind their homes.

By mid-evening, the creek was a torrent that collapsed fences, lifted vehicles, rose more than a foot inside houses and turned lives upside down.

Numerous calls to city hall from flood victims that started Friday and picked up again on Monday got the attention of Mayor Virginia Hillman. At noon on Monday, she made a visit to survey the damage.

She said any Sherwood resident who suffered flood damage – on Bronco Lane or elsewhere – should contact her office. She is exploring public assistance options and wants as much documentation as possible to bolster the city’s request.

“Hopefully we can do something to get some federal assistance,” Hillman said, adding that she is counting on the Sherwood community to help the flood victims.

“I hate it, some folks don’t even have content insurance.” Furniture, clothing, appliances, sheetrock, flooring, carpet and personal belongings were ruined by the rising water that was more than three-feet deep in the street late that evening. By

Friday morning, most of the water had receded.

“As we waded down the street, the water was up to our waists, the lights on the street were not even on,” said Mike Moore, as he recounted his family’s ordeal. “People were evacuating – we saw people carrying bags and kids.”

Less than an hour before, Moore and his wife Carrie had been sopping up water that had begun to seep under doors of their house.

In seven years they’ve lived on Bronco Lane, they had seen the swollen creek come into their backyard, but never once had it made it over the threshold.

Suddenly, the invading water was up to their ankles and they realized this time, it was different.

“We shifted into a different mode,” Carrie Moore recalled. “We were in shock, thinking, ‘This isn’t happening.’”

Realizing that leaving was their only option, the couple began to quickly gather up their two sons and a few belongings. Their plan to drive away was quickly dashed when they looked out their kitchen door into their carport and saw water lapping at the headlights of their SUV.

Rather than open a floodgate, the Moores exited through a bedroom window at the other end of the house. As they left, Carrie called 911. Once they reached higher ground, they and other evacuees were met by Sherwood firefighters and police.

The Moores have insurance on their house, but were shocked to learn that their policy does not cover furnishings or other belongings. Their home was contaminated by sewer water that backed up into their home during the flood.

“It would be nice to get some help,” Mike Moore said. “I would take a bag of towels, soap – something.”

The weekend at a motel and a trip to Walmart for shoes, clothes and other items cost the Moores more than $800. They estimate repairs to their house will take two months. With this one flood experience, they have had enough.

“We are going to fix it up and get out of here,” Mike Moore said.

John and Lynn McIntosh who have lived on Bronco Lane for 37 years say this flood was the worst of four they’ve endured. The couple seemed resigned to their plight, as they picked through their ruined belongings on Monday and told tales of past floods.

To let rising waters out, they would open a door at one end of the house, but then have to grab belongings before they were carried off.

“One year, my Christmas tree went out,” she recalled. Another year, she ventured outside, was overwhelmed by the swift-moving water and wound up clinging to a chain-link fence until rescued by a passer-by. She says it had to be an angel who helped her to higher ground, then disappeared. They say they can’t afford insurance or replacement of items lost over the years to the floods.

Jim Thrasher has lived at 7906 Bronco Lane for 20 years. On Monday, he and his wife Teresa and his son Jeff were cleaning up the damage.

Jim was scraping mud out of the inside of his car that was parked in the driveway when the flood occurred.

The Thrashers are staying with family in Cabot while they clean up their home. The work will take “at least a couple of weeks, probably a month,” Jim said.

“We got ready for something like this when Katrina came through, but nothing happened then. Now, it’s happened,” Jim said.

“The mayor said that the judge had declared the area an emergency to receive (Federal Emergency Management Agency) aid,” Jeff said.

Shena Maxwell had lived in 7910 Bronco Lane with her 2 year-old daughter Imani. She says the home is no longer healthy to live in, so she has rented a home in Levy.

Maxwell had flooding problems before, but nothing like the ones last week’s storm brought. “The backyard would always flood, but it never came in the house,” she said.

A lot of property was damaged, and she was not insured. “I canceled my insurance two months ago trying to save a penny. I’ve learned my lesson,” she said.

She was not impressed with the city’s response to the flood. “Why didn’t we see anybody from the city on Friday?” she asked.

She has lived in Sherwood all of her life, but said she doesn’t see herself moving back to town anytime soon.

Dennis Harris, who has lived on Bronco Lane since 1986, agrees that this time was the worst, with water rising “eight to nine inches” all through his house.

He said that his repeated complaints to the city – starting with Mayor Evans – led to Mayor Bill Harmon having the culvert dug out and concreted. That seemed to lessen the flooding. Harris thought that the problem was a thing of the past. He canceled his insurance after he paid off the mortgage.

“I thought it would be better; I didn’t think it would get this bad, but you never know,” Harris said. “The city needs to dredge the creek out.”

Harris’ son, Chris, and his wife, Salina, who live down the street, also had their house flooded. They say that a flood insurance premium is built into their monthly house payment, but their insurance company is denying that they are covered.

The waters that rose 10 inches throughout their house ruined all their furniture. They’ve been sleeping on air mattresses along with “a houseful of spiders and worms of all kinds” brought in by the flood. They say what has happened has been “a catastrophe,” but they have no plans to leave. They have a 600-square-foot addition planned. “We are going to stay – we have a little bit wrapped up in it,” Chris Harris said.

Chris was impressed with the mayor’s presence on Monday. “She’s really nice. She gave us phone numbers to call for help,” he said.

It is uncertain what the city of Sherwood can or will do to modify the Woodruff Creek culvert to prevent more devastating floods.

“If it is in a floodplain, you can do something to alleviate them, but it can be real hard to change Mother Nature,” Hillman said on Monday.

Leader staff writer Jonathan Feldman contributed to this report.