Archive for Sunday, October 11, 1998


October 11, 1998


Construction workers and contractors are behind in their work because of recent storms. Meanwhile, damage in Douglas County adds up to about $1.3 million as Gov. Bill Graves seeks federal disaster relief for several northeast Kansas counties.

As his crew shoveled sticky black asphalt onto the parking lot of a new office building at 18th and Wakarusa streets, Jim Harrell smiled when asked whether recent storms had wreaked havoc on his schedule.

``We're behind everywhere there's dirt,'' the paving superintendent for LRM Industries said without pause.

Harrell is not alone.

Everywhere throughout the Douglas County area, crews are making up for lost time, cursing the recent wet weather. Not only has it put them behind, in some cases, it's cost them money. Although tradesmen such as Harrell have no power over Mother Nature, jobs with strict deadlines can mean penalties when the due date passes.

Last week's weather wouldn't have been so bad if crews hadn't already been behind.

``About the time it dried up, there was the storm Sunday,'' Harrell said, referring to the Oct. 4 thunderstorms that brought 5 inches of rain to Lawrence.

The parking lot at Harrell's office construction site should have been ready about two weeks ago, he said. After the storm, the lot looked more like a lake than a place to park cars.

``It was just a big mess,'' Harrell said.

His wasn't the only mess.

Working on a house in west Lawrence, Dan Christenberry of Concrete Unlimited said his company also was playing catch up.

Christenberry and his fellow workers were putting in the driveway and sidewalks at the home, a job that doesn't take long itself but was delayed because of the storms.

``We missed two days last week and missed Monday,'' he said Friday.

As Christenberry scurried to gain ground, others were laying brick and roofing the home.

Everybody's pretty much in the same boat except for interior workers such as trimmers, Christenberry said.

At a new home next door, Ross Sloan was finishing drywall on a scaffold. The cooler weather means the drywall compound takes longer to dry. But the real victims of the storms are the concrete workers and roofers, Sloan said.

``It's improving daily,'' said Ron Durflinger, owner of Durflinger Homes.

``It was wet two weeks prior to Sunday's storm,'' he said. ``It's still pretty wet. If we don't get too much water, we ought to be back on track any time now.''

Durflinger said the work setbacks depended on each individual site and the stage of construction of a particular house.

``We were fortunate and didn't have any wet basements, for the most part -- our construction was in good shape.''

``A lot of the new areas are up high, and they're just going to work better,'' said Bob Santee, president of Denning-Santee Construction. ``If you did have a big hole, it would have filled up with water.

Santee said it usually takes him six to eight months to build a home.

``We generally expect losing a week or two in that time period, but it's usually not that big a deal,'' he said. ``I think that just kind of comes with the territory ... you're just real dependent on the weather.''

Meanwhile, staff at Douglas County's emergency preparedness department spent much of last week assessing damage from the storms. They visited homes such as that of Gina Grigaitis of the Washington Creek area.

Grigaitis is still cleaning up. She said she has had to pull up the carpet in three-fourths of her house. Waters from the swollen creek soaked much of her home.

``We actually had 11 inches in the house,'' she said. Her garage, living room, bedroom, family room and kitchen were all swimming.

``All of my major electrical appliances were standing in 11 inches of water for six hours,'' she said.

Her dishwasher, freezer and trash compactor aren't working. She hasn't even plugged her stove in yet. Much of her time has been spent cleaning the quarter- to half-inch of sediment out of the flooded rooms in her 3-year-old home.

``It's just such a mess,'' she said. ``You wouldn't believe what comes in. I was still throwing out night crawlers (Friday).

``What landscaping I'd done is in my neighbor's yard. ... I can't tell you the amount of clothing and photographs and furniture that is probably ruined.''

Several of her neighbors are cleaning out muck, too.

``Probably 12 in all were hit pretty hard,'' Grigaitis said. One neighbor's finished basement flooded, while another lost furniture.

Worst of all, she found out her homeowner's insurance didn't cover flooding. She thinks the damage at her house could total $25,000 or more.

``I'm not really sure what I want to do yet,'' she said. ``I'm really hoping that some federal assistance will come.''

Paula Phillips and her Douglas County Emergency Management staff tallied $1.3 million in damage to personal and public property throughout the county. The public works department for the county reported about $40,000 in damage, for example, and the courthouse turned in about $6,000 worth of computer and phones woes, assistant director Teri Guenther said Friday afternoon. The townships calculated $100,000 in damage -- from rock the storms washed away to drainage pipes that will need replacing.

Lawrence City Manager Mike Wildgen said the storm didn't do enough damage to city property to warrant turning in a total to the county and state.

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management delivered the damage totals to Gov. Bill Graves on Friday afternoon. He requested that President Clinton declare several northeast Kansas counties, including Douglas, disaster areas. The other counties were Franklin, Jefferson, Johnson, Wyandotte, Shawnee and Leavenworth.

Now the federal government will consider the request, which, if approved, would provide disaster relief funds for the clean-up and repairs. The governor is seeking $5.5 million in public assistance and $3.9 million in individual assistance.

Flash flooding killed at least nine people and sent losses in the Kansas City area alone above $11 million. Two people are still missing.

-- Journal-World writers Mike Dekker and Felicia Haynes and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is

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