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Johnson County flood victims still reeling 4 years later

June 7, 2012

Edinburgh resident Daniel Garvey was in Ohio when he got a call that his neighborhood had flooded.

His cellphone died before he could find out how bad it was.

Garvey rushed to his Johnson County home and found that it was worse than he'd imagined.

Floodwater had risen over some mailboxes in his Pruitt East neighborhood.

A 4-pound bass was swimming in his backyard. One of his vehicles was underwater. Everything in his house was soaked or tainted with mildew.

Garvey had to borrow about $90,000 to fix up his home and replace his possessions. Now he has to make $400-a-month payments on the loan.

"It's a real kick in the back of the head," he said.

He feels as though he's stuck with a second mortgage and won't be able to pay off the debt for at least a decade.

The devastating 2008 flood continues to have repercussions for victims, even if they no longer have all their soaked possessions piled on their lawns, Garvey said. Flood victims are still paying off the tens of thousands of dollars they had to borrow in some cases to hang new drywall, lay down new carpeting and replace major appliances.

"People drive by, see that your house looks nice and think that everything's fine," he said. "But flood victims are still paying for that. It's the flood all over again every time I have to pay that bill."

Edinburgh residents who took water in their homes said they've been thinking more about the flood as the fourth anniversary approached. They said they've tried to put it out of mind and move on with their lives even if it took a toll on their finances or health.

Many lost irreplaceable possessions, such as baby photos, scrapbooks full of memories or family Bibles they inherited.

The town was one of the hardest-hit communities in Johnson County during the 2008 flood, but most residents were able to stay and rebuild, town council member Ron Hoffman said. They didn't have to tear down homes but had to replace drywall and carpeting.

An engineering firm recently completed a drainage plan for Edinburgh aimed at preventing such flooding in the future, Hoffman said. The town must figure out how to pay for new drains and other infrastructure.

Edinburgh already has fixed a broken pipe and installed new drains, including a wide-mouthed one on the cul-de-sac in front of Marshall Kaserman's house in Pruitt East.

Kaserman's home flooded in the late 1970s, but he decided to stay and rebuild. His home took more than 30 inches of water four years ago.

Repairs cost about $30,000, but life has since gotten back to normal, he said.

"I try to put it out of my mind," he said. "If it floods again, I just won't come back."

Pruitt East resident Bertha Bailey also has tried to forget about the flood by focusing on her grandchildren's sports, including her grandson's run last season with the high school boys' basketball team.

Floodwater destroyed most of her husband's Coca-Cola memorabilia collection, furniture he bought her for Christmas shortly after they were married and the possessions they saved from their late sons, who died in a car accidents.

The Baileys had to live in a camper in their driveway for about a month while they hung new drywall and rebuilt.

"I try not to even think about it," she said. "I just think that nothing can be done, and it happened. It's gone. I just don't let it bother me."

Garvey said it can be hard to move on when he's still paying for major repairs, appliances and all the other things he had to replace.

"Water is devastating," he said. "Even if it doesn't touch it, the condensation and mildew absolutely destroys everything. All your clothes are gone. All the pictures on the wall are gone. Everything is gone, done."

Expenses pile up, and the debt can't be paid off quickly or easily, he said.

"It's a real hardship," he said. "You've got to take out all these loans to get back on your feet, and you just keep paying and paying."

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