Joe and Shirley Noll may never spend another night in the rural Jefferson County house they have called home since 1956.
During the early hours of Oct. 2, heavy rains caused nearby Walnut Creek to overflow its banks and send 2 feet of water rushing into the Nolls' house northeast of McLouth, about 14 miles north of Lawrence.
"The telephone didn't work, and we couldn't call for help," Shirley Noll said. "We sat there for hours, and nobody knew we were flooded."
The Nolls, both 70, managed to find places to sit and keep their feet out of the water, and they were not harmed. But the water damaged everything that was low enough to be in its path, including furniture. The couple spent a frightening night watching the water rise and listening to logs bang against the outside of the house.
In addition to the damage to their house and its contents, floodwaters also claimed their two cars, a pickup truck and three tractors, as well as other equipment in their barn.
The Nolls don't have flood insurance, and it appears there will be no monetary grants from agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"There's nothing available," Shirley Noll said. "They say there is not enough damage in Jefferson County. We're devastated."
The Nolls are not alone. The series of storms that kept re-forming over Shawnee, Jackson, Jefferson and Leavenworth counties caused torrential downpours. Up to a foot of rain fell in some areas of Jefferson County. Roads and bridges were flooded. Houses and businesses in Grantville were damaged by water. At least two feet of water covered a section of U.S. Highway 24 east of Grantville, causing it to be closed for more than a day.
When the water receded, 110 houses had been damaged in the flood, according to tallies made by Jefferson County Emergency Management Director Don Haynes. Three homes were considered total losses, Haynes said. Another 52 houses had damage of more than 50 percent, he said.
- Receding water shows depths of destruction (10-04-05)
- 6News video: Residents begin cleaning up after flood (10-03-05)
- 6News video: Flood waters in Lawrence receding (10-03-05)
- 6News video: Officials working to reopen railroad lines (10-03-05)
- Photo Gallery: Flooding in northeast Kansas
- Disaster strikes here (10-03-05)
- 6News video: Four counties ravaged by flooding (10-02-05)
- Video: Flooding derails train (10-02-05)
- 6News video: Kansas River under flood warning (10-02-05)
- 6News video: Animals evacuated in case of possible flooding (10-02-05)
- Local forecast
A total damage estimate for Jefferson County homes and properties is still being compiled, but because of FEMA disaster rules, it doesn't appear there will be any assistance from FEMA, Haynes said.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius issued a statement last week saying that although FEMA funds wouldn't be available, residents and businesses were eligible to apply for Small Business Administration disaster assistance loans.
Federal disaster assistance will probably be made available for Jefferson and the other counties to help with the costs of repairing bridge and road damage. The counties are able to combine their losses to acquire FEMA funds, said Jefferson County Commissioner Lynn Luck. There could be $1 million in damage alone to Jefferson County roads, bridges and public infrastructure, she said.
Even if federal money is available for road and bridge repair, it will be months before everything is back to normal, Luck said.
But Luck, Haynes and other county officials are upset that more can't be done to assist people like the Nolls.
"These people didn't have flood insurance," Luck said. "They didn't even live in what was considered a flood plain. That means they are not eligible for flood insurance."
Haynes would like to see the FEMA rules changed to take into consideration the percentage of homes damaged in a particular location.
"One hundred homes may not be a lot in a big city, but it is a lot in Jefferson County," Haynes said. "These people need some help to put their lives back together."
In addition, Luck thinks the federal assistance rules and guidelines are inconsistent and confusing.
"When you are trying to help people and you get good questions but have no answers, that's when it gets really frustrating," she said.
The Nolls are now living in an apartment in Winchester. They aren't sure they will ever be able to move back into their farmhouse.
"We're here until March, and that will get us through the winter," Shirley Noll said. "You just need some time to get your head on straight and think about what you are going to do."