Crosby residents struggle one year after flood

Published 12:42 am Sunday, August 13, 2017

By Lyndy Berryhill

CROSBY — Viola Granger gingerly shuffles across her house’s newly replaced floors due to the intense discomfort of gout, a kind of arthritis. Last August, her condition nearly caused her to drown in the worst flood to ever to hit Crosby.

She and her husband, Monroe, have lived in the same Crosby house for 53 years. August 2016 rains filled to the brim the creek that snakes around the neighborhood of approximately 300 residents.

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The water quickly began rising into houses.

In 2014, they watched flood waters reach the third step of their house. Last year, muddy water was seeping through their front door.

Seeking to evacuate from her house as the 2016 flood water rose, Granger went to retrieve her purse and all the forms of identification in it when she realized the flood waters could easily sweep her bent body away.

“I just went into shock,” Granger said. “I waded out to the street and they caught me on one side and one on the other.”

Two young men struggled to bring her to dry ground, but they made it.

As they waded up the hill, a house approximately the same size as Granger’s floated past them.

One year later, residents of Crosby have yet to fully recover.

The Granger’s had insurance on their house, but it did not cover flooding.

The Baptist Association helped pay for new flooring. The Grangers paid for the labor, which cost them $1,500 along with other repair expenses. Their porch is still warped and some siding needs to be replaced.

For some residents it was easier, for others it has been more difficult. Although no lives were claimed by the flood, many lives were changed.

The community was just one area impacted by the heavy rains that poured down across the lower Mississippi and northern Louisiana.

Unlike many residents across the state line in Louisiana, where flooding was widespread, Crosby residents received no federal aid even though more than two thirds of the entire community received damages or lost their homes entirely.

FEMA determined the area had not been impacted adequately to deserve relief funds since the monetary damage was below the threshold.

The the $2 million in damage to public infrastructures in Crosby and surrounding areas as determined by the state was below the $4.2 million threshold needed for federal aid.

Kathy Gaines, 53, and her brother refused to leave even if it meant sleeping on a pile of plywood for months and washing her clothes and dishes somewhere else.

Gaines was at work when it flooded, but her brother knew it was time to leave when the house was swaying with the water. His neighbors made a human chain as far as they could and pulled him to safety.

“It was devastating,” Gaines said.

One year later, Gaines has a mattress on the floor where she sleeps. After the flood she replaced her floors with plywood from volunteers. Her paycheck each month helps chip away at repairing her house. She was able to purchase a stove, but damaged gas lines from the flood have delayed it being usable. She still needs a washer and dryer.

Her house was damaged in the 2014 flood and had been lifted up on cinder blocks. Last year, volunteers lifted her house again nearly twice as high, but damaged the roof in the process.

Her brother and friends have done most of the labor, but the materials have ended up costing her nearly $3,000 so far. One carpenter she paid in advance never came and completed any work.

With repairs not close to being completed, she uses plastic dishes and utensils and uses an electric griddle to cook most of her food. She washes the dishes every night in the bathroom tub, the only room with running water.

“We’ve came a long way though,” Gaines said.

Although MEMA sprayed houses for mold, Gaines said all of it has not been removed. Her kitchen cabinets still contain mold and mildew, even though she has tried every way she knows how to remove it.

For the residents who can help themselves and have steady jobs, recovery is a slow process.

For residents on disability and little income, recovery is distant dream.

Crosby resident Larry Jenkins had already suffered several heart attacks and other health problems before the flood.

He lives in a shotgun house built before he was born.

Volunteers ripped out his carpet and paneling on the walls. They said they would return to help some more, but they never did.

They lifted his house on blocks, but nearly ripped his house in two.

Now a two-inch gap exists between his bathroom and living room. He lays towels down on the floor to catch the rain.

He still has hope his check of $658 per month will eventually return the simple comforts of home such as having heat in the winter and being able to cook dinner.

“I guess one day I’ll get straight,” Jenkins said.

After the flooding, many residents were displaced for up to a month. Some have yet to return.

“We lost a few citizens in the process,” said Thomas C. Tolliver Jr, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency director for Wilkinson County.

Several houses that were not washed away, but were left uninhabitable still remain. The apartment complex in the center of the community has yet to be completed, so all of the residents have relocated with the hopes of moving back after completion.

A state grant was issued through Gov. Phil Bryant’s office, which used $250,000 leftover from Katrina relief to replace mobile homes.

The grant afforded 14 used trailers to be purchased for those who qualified.

“We didn’t have enough funds to go around,” Tolliver said.

Tolliver said the trailers were not new, but they were habitable with some minor repairs needed. The grant also replaced some furniture and some appliances.

“Thank God for people who spent many, many volunteer hours,” Tolliver said.

Many religious charities, organizations and volunteers came from all over the country to help out. Efforts were coordinated by the Wilkinson County Community-based Recovery Committee which counseled residents and assessed needs.

Tolliver said he is disappointed that no one received any help from the federal government, even though the neighbors in Louisiana experienced the same flood.

“I guess somebody had to die,” Tolliver said.

Friday evening Sharon Anderson was watching the creek rise with apprehension, hoping it would not be another disaster like the year before.

The drainage ditch around the community usually drains excess water, but when the creek rises too high, it all comes back through the culverts.

In 2014 she lost her trailer entirely in the flood. She purchased a new one afterward with a loan under the condition she purchase flood insurance as well.

Last year, her foundation was washed away along with her pipes and some siding. The damage amounted to $13,000, but Anderson said it was a godsend.

Crosby is on a low-risk floodplain, but she had to buy a brand new trailer just to get the insurance protection.

MEMA was able to provide rescue and recovery efforts, but without leftover funds, they would possibly not have been provided anything.

“We are currently working with what the Legislature believes we need,” said Greg Flynn, public information officer for MEMA.

MEMA is currently operating on just more than $3.1 million a year. While the agency is requesting a budget increase for the next fiscal year, the budget has been decreased every year since 2009 when the budget peaked at $6 million.

“We will always be ready to assist our state, no matter what,” Flynn said.