Lake Mary, Fort Adams residents get first look

Published 12:02 am Saturday, May 28, 2011

ERIC SHELTON/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Wayne Cavin, right, ties his boat to a rail, while John Barksdale inspects his cabin for flood-related damages Friday morning near Lake Mary in Wilkinson County. Friday was the first day that residents could review their property since the record-breaking flood.

WOODVILLE — John Barksdale paused before opening the door to his house on Lake Mary Friday morning.

It was the first time he’d returned since May 13. The water was within two feet of his porch Friday, even though his house is on stilts.

But the lake, filled with the Mississippi River’s waters, had been higher.

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“I’m crossing my fingers for when I open this door,” he said. “This is big anticipation.”

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church is surrounded by water near Fort Adams in Wilkinson County.

As he stepped over the threshold, he held himself rigid, though there were no immediate signs of damage.

Checking through the bedrooms, Barksdale, 72, realized the flood had spared his house.

“Thank the Lord,” he said. “It looks like we’re OK.”

Seconds later, though, he noticed water damage under his dining room table. Then he remembered he’d drilled holes in the floor.

“I thought I was being smart and that it would help it drain (if it flooded),” Barksdale said. “Water must have sloshed up in here.”

Still, he was pleased with the state of his house.

Until Friday morning, the floodwaters surrounding camps on Lake Mary and Fort Adams in Wilkinson County were closed even to residents.

Thursday night, law enforcement officials ruled that it’s time to let residents get back to their homes and camps. The waters were opened to homeowners Friday from 8 a.m. to sundown, and they will also be open today from 8 a.m. to sundown.

“You’ve got to let people back in so they can let their places dry out and so they can clean,” said Jimmy Hutson, a conservation officer.

John Barksdale surveys the inside of his cabin for flood damages.

The waters were initially closed off for several reasons, he said. For one, wakes from boats would push more water into the houses.

“You’d be pretty mad if you were to try to clean up and somebody came by and got more water in your house, wouldn’t you?” Hutson asked.

They were also worried about looters taking advantage of evacuated homes.

“It’s a big flood, so we figured we’d have more people out sightseeing wanting to take pictures,” he said. “That makes it hard to tell who’s looting. The only thing to do was to close it off completely.”

Satisfied with his inspection, Barksdale walked back onto his porch, but he didn’t walk down the steps. They’re still immersed in water, despite the fact that the levels have gone down a few feet, according to Hutson.

Instead, Barksdale climbed over the porch railing to get back into his boat.

Wayne Cavin, Barksdale’s friend of 55 years, has a house not too far away, and he said the south winds caused him problems when it blew water into his home.

“A lot of people are going to be in a lot worse shape, though,” said Cavin, 72.

The men spent time Friday morning ripping up the carpet and padding from Cavin’s floors so that his house could begin to dry out. Besides his carpet, Cavin’s home suffered damage to one closet and one side of the fireplace.

While Barksdale uses his residence as a hunting camp on the weekends, Cavin makes his home on Lake Mary.

“I have homeowner’s insurance,” Cavin said. “I’ve lived here for five years.”

But with the damage he faced, paired with the moving costs he incurred, Cavin said he’s been in contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“I’ve been very impressed with FEMA,” he said. “On Friday the 13th we came up here, and (one of our friend’s) brought a FEMA guy with him. He said I should register, so I did that afternoon, and they called that night. Saturday morning I met with them to see the damage, and Monday morning there was money in my checking account. And from what I understand, I’m going to get some more.

“I don’t think you can do much better than that.”

FEMA has approved $15,242 in aid for Wilkinson County through its individuals and households program. In Adams County, $6,110 has been approved.

For now, Barksdale and Cavin, as well as the other residents around them, count the days until it’s time to really put things back into place.

Friday evening, the river stood at 60.01 feet.