Archive for Saturday, October 23, 1993

FLOODWATER STILL HERE

October 23, 1993

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Some North Lawrence residents still can't shake the Flood of '93, as stubborn groundwater continues to fill basements and dampen spirits.

It's taken Charlie Rayton's heat and hot water, and soaked up Cynthia Butler's retirement savings.

It's the high water table in North Lawrence, that seemingly bottomless pit of water seeping into at least a half dozen basements for nearly four months.

"It doesn't drain," City Manager Mike Wildgen said. "The water doesn't have anywhere to go. It's saturated in that area."

And residents east of Lyon Street Park are left with sump pumps humming, wallets emptying and headaches bursting.

All because their homes sit in a flood plain, the lowest residential areas in town.

"Frustrated's not the word," said Rayton, watching a frog scurry through the 2 feet of murky water coating his basement's poured concrete floor. "I've done everything I can think of. I can't do anything else."

Three months of weekly, at times daily, calls to local social service organizations finally bore fruit Friday morning, when a project monitor from the Federal Emergency Management Agency showed up to assess his damage claims.

Freddie Rodriguez, supervisor of 10 FEMA inspectors in Kansas since July, milled around Rayton's house at 760 Lyon, snapping Polaroids and taking notes on his yellow legal pad.

"I got a problem, Charles," he said, sitting on the steps outside. "We've got to find a way to stop the water from coming in, and that's not going to be easy."

Rayton's been telling himself that since July 10, when the Flood of '93 hit North Lawrence. He's lost two water heaters and a furnace to the water, and spent $178 last month for electricity -- virtually all to power four small water pumps 24 hours a day.

"That's real encouraging -- `Stop the water,' " Rayton said. "There's no way. I've tried everything. The city should dig a trench all the way down to the river."

Wildgen said the city couldn't do much to help homes in the area. Even a $941,000 pump station for North Lawrence will drain only the Maple Grove drainage district, which includes land up around the Lawrence Municipal Airport, not groundwater around homes east of the park.

Butler, 801 Lake, doesn't place much stock in the pump station, either. She figures the fields of water outside her back yard won't drain until next summer, and that a winter freeze is sure to keep her basement soaked for months.

"I just want to sell and leave town," said Butler, who bought the home six years ago and has been refurbishing it since. "It's like trying to pump a well dry, and you can't do that. I need help."

Despite her fundamental distrust for government, Butler said, she wanted FEMA to come in and buy out her house.

"It's pitiful. It's pitiful," she said. "I'd like to give it back to the flood plain, but I can't. My life's tied up in it right now."

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