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Archive for Sunday, July 8, 2007

Flood cleanup a long-term challenge for region

Another natural disaster in Kansas turns lives of small-town residents upside down

Osawatomie resident Krista Appleton, enters her trailer in southeast Osawatomie on the 4th of July hoping to salvage what she could, while Richard McCrackin  holds his boat next to the trailer. The water had been  over the roof of Appletons home for three days.

Osawatomie resident Krista Appleton, enters her trailer in southeast Osawatomie on the 4th of July hoping to salvage what she could, while Richard McCrackin holds his boat next to the trailer. The water had been over the roof of Appletons home for three days.

July 8, 2007

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Jerry Shanks talks about how the flood affected his Independence business.

Jerry Shanks talks about how the flood affected his Independence business. Enlarge video

Kathy Covey talks about protecting pets left behind during the flood evacuations.

Kathy Covey talks about protecting pets left behind during the flood evacuations. Enlarge video

Kansas Katrina?

Journal-World photographer Richard Gwin journeyed to southeast Kansas to document the flood devastation there. Enlarge video

— Jerry Shanks has seen all kinds of catastrophes. Flooding, he says, is the worst.

"I'd much rather be blown away than I would be washed away," he said last week, standing in front of a pile of debris outside buildings at his Independence business, Shanks Oil Co. "Floods tend to come and stay and leave you with a lot more than you really want when you get done."

As floodwaters began to subside late last week, Shanks and other residents of Independence, Osawatomie and Coffeyville - which also was hit with a 71,000-gallon crude oil spill - began the arduous job of cleaning up and putting their lives, and communities, back together.

They'll do it with the help of federal officials who have been busy in another part of Kansas this year, helping Greensburg recover from the May tornado that wiped out most of the town.

"Unfortunately, we're fairly familiar with each other now," U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., said Thursday as he introduced Federal Emergency Management Agency officials at a town hall meeting in Coffeyville.

He said officials are working on an aid package that also will provide assistance to flood victims in Texas and Oklahoma.

The money "doesn't make anybody whole," Brownback said. "But it does get people back to a place where they can try to get their lives moving forward again."

The lives affected by the flooding include the 53 cats and dogs - and one songbird - dropped off Thursday at a temporary shelter set up at a Coffeyville ballfield by the Humane Society of the United States. Eleven of those animals were returned to their owners by the end of that day.

"We've got ... plenty of dogs looking to get back with their home," said Kathy Covey, who was helping run the animal shelter. "We're looking for more people to come and find their pets."

Many humans, though, were busy cleaning out their homes and businesses - if the water was low enough to do so. On Wednesday, at least, some southeast Kansans were still using boats to get to their homes.

Shanks, at least, was luckier. Though his office was submerged beneath five feet of water during the initial surge, he was back in business after two days off.

"All my business machines were under water. All my communication equipment was under water," he said. "Everything inside the building, much of my record-keeping materials, were devastated. We're trying to dry some of it out; if the sunshine stays with us, we'll be able to dry most of that out in the next few days."

For families forced from their homes, of course, the losses went beyond dollars and cents.

"We're trying to keep some of the memories from being lost forever," said John Dgrodnik, an Osawatomie resident, as he described helping his ex-wife recover a few pictures and other mementos from her apartment before it was too flooded to enter.

At this point, only one person has died in the flooding that ravaged southeast Kansas. The body of a man who authorities said refused to leave his Coffeyville motel room was discovered late Thursday during officials' structure-by-structure search in flooded areas of the southeast Kansas town.

While many residents lost all of their belongings to floodwaters, they still consider themselves fortunate to walk out of the calamity with their lives.

"We can get new memories," said Trish Bell, Dgrodnik's ex-wife. "We can get new stuff."

- Photographer Richard Gwin can be reached at 832-6351.

Comments

lazz 7 years, 5 months ago

does that dude have a satellite dish on his skiff?

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