Leader Blues

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

TOP STORY >> Flood devastates homes

A storage facility on Jacksonville Cutoff was flooded on Christmas. The cutoff was impassable until early this week.
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West Main Street going into the Taramount subdivision in Jacksonville was flooded for much of the weekend.

By EILEEN FELDMAN
and ALIYA FELDMAN
Leader staff writers

Many area residents were still recovering from October’s floods when the rain started pouring down on Christmas Eve.

Christmas 2009 will go down in history for several families who had already suffered a lot of damage to their homes from flooding just two months ago.

Adylyn and Glenn Figley moved to higher ground in the same trailer park on Old Tom Box Road in north Pulaski County after a brand-new trailer they were living in had been ruined. A trailer they were renting is now also damaged from flooding that started on Christmas Eve.

The Figleys aren’t the only ones who have had problems from the 81 inches of rain that Arkansas received this year.

Harold Ford awoke sometime around 2 a.m. Christmas morning and while walking by his solarium noticed his Valentine Road house south of Jacksonville was surrounded by water.

“It was frightening,” Ford said. “I never would have thought it would come in the house.”

He and his wife Ruthie began to gather a few of their things, shut off their electricity and gas and, around 5 a.m., they were rescued by boat by members of the East Pulaski Volunteer Fire Department with assistance from the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office and the Jacksonville Fire Department. “We didn’t have time, they rushed in with boats,” he said.

Ford said the Dick Jeter Community off Valentine Road just south of Jacksonville has about 250 residents in about 100 homes belonging mostly to elderly folks. “The water came up so fast on Christmas, we just weren’t expecting it,” said Ford.

He had two-and-a-half feet of water in one part of his house, a bi-level built in 1959. There were three inches of water in the upper level. He’s worried he’ll lose two freezers full of food since his power is out. “We can’t go back in now,” Ford said.

Ford has been talking to the Red Cross and the Department of Emergency Management, trying to get some kind of aid and a survey of the damage. He’s also talked to Sherman Smith of the county’s road and bridge department and is expecting some declaration of disaster.

Ford and his wife, who’ve lived in the area for 35 years, are staying in Jacksonville with Ruthie’s sister, who lives in the new subdivision behind Dupree Park. The subdivision didn’t flood, although Dupree Lake flowed over Redmond Road, closing it until Saturday afternoon.

Bill Moses of Jacksonville heard from FEMA two weeks ago that he wouldn’t qualify for assistance, even though almost a foot of water had entered his home in October.

“Today is the first day I can get back in the house,” Moses said on Monday.

He left his house on Hwy. 161 at 11 a.m. Thursday to go shopping. When he returned five hours later, 16 inches of floodwater was in the house.

He said he only had time to grab a few things before he knew he had to leave the house. It was too late for his computer, TV, three couches, wood floors and more damage he cared to think about.

By Christmas, 33 inches of water had entered his home, he said.

He spent the holiday with friends in Lonoke. He could hear water in his muffler as his truck trudged down Hwy. 161 in the downpour. “When I was getting out of here, I barely got the truck out,” he said.

This is the third time this year that Moses’ property flooded.

He blames the Jacksonville landfill.

“(The) dump is the reason the highway flooded,” he said.

In May, floodwaters reached his house but didn’t get in. But on Oct. 29, Moses says eight inches of water covered his den and ruined his wood floors. He had recently taken them up and left the concrete foundation bare when Thursday’s flood came.

When he came back from Christmas Eve shopping, water was “coming in an inch a minute,” he said.

He said his house never flooded before this year. “I’m 300 feet from the creek,” he said, adding that the dump is 115 feet away.

He thinks the flood-relief channels around the dump aren’t sufficient to contain the amount of rain that fell in Jacksonville recently.

“It knocks out all that water and throws it on me,” he said.

He estimates that his house has suffered $15,000 to $20,000 worth of damage from the Christmas flood.

Moses is an unemployed Vietnam veteran and doesn’t understand why the government won’t help him pay to repair damage to his house that occurred during October’s floods.

He says he’ll appeal to FEMA again for help with the most-recent round of damage.

The Figleys were unable to enter Jacksonville because Maddox Road was closed from the flooding. They headed to a Sherwood motel for shelter.

There was six to seven feet of water surrounding their trailer park, Figley said. Many of the trailers that flooded in October, forcing residents to be evacuated by the fire department, flooded again.

“Strangers helped on Christmas Eve with money. Friends brought dinner,” Adylyn Figley said. “Churches have been praying for us, and we’re just hanging in there.”

Their trailer flooded with about three inches.

“We rented a mobile home a little higher up in the park that we’d been living in since Nov. 9,” she said.

“When we left, (water) was at the top step” of their porch, she added.

Luckily, there isn’t any damage to their belongings because they had time to get everything off of the floor.

They lost a brand new trailer to flooding in October, for which insurance has compensated them.

Figley said the couple planned to close on a new house in Ward in mid-January, but the mortgage company is working with them so that they can move in sooner.

She’s still hopeful, despite the two floods she’s been in this year.

“God’s been good to us,” she said.