Indiana Flood Victims Scrape Out Homes, Consider Recovery Plans

June 13, 2008

DeWayne Warrick had built a waist-high pile of ruined chairs, couch cushions and other furniture on the curb outside his home. He topped it with a sizable collection of stuffed animals and a pink Dora the Explorer miniature chair that belonged to his 3-year-old daughter, Abby.

“That’s all she talks about is her house, keeps asking her mom when we’re coming back home,” Warrick said as he lit a cigarette and took a break from cleaning. “I told her we gotta get a new one.”

Rolls of soggy carpet and piles of flood-ruined belongings lined streets in Franklin and Columbus on June 10, as people took stock in what they lost and tried to figure out how to replace it.

Warrick was renting his Franklin home and had no insurance. He’s paying $300 to rent a motel room for a week for his family, but he has no idea where to take his three children next.

“I lost everything except what little bit of kids clothes we had upstairs,” he said. “Everybody’s talking Red Cross and FEMA are going to help.

“When? When it’s too late?”

Floodwaters climbed as high as six feet inside a Johnson County office building down the street from Warrick’s home. They knocked out part of a wall and left a paste of sewage, mud and fuel on the floor.

The water also destroyed 435 computerized voting machines stored there. Johnson County Commissioner Mitch Ripley said the machines were worth about $2.4 million.

“We just literally put them away from the primaries, thinking that in this building they were totally safe, climate controlled and everything,” he said.

The county may have to return to paper ballots for November’s presidential election.

South of Franklin in Columbus, flood water from Haw Creek poured into the main research and development center for diesel engine maker Cummins Inc. Spokesman Mark Land said the center was filled with computers and engineering offices.

“The water came in so quickly that we didn’t get the electricity turned off,” he said. “It’s a mess right now.”

The creek also buckled chain-link fences, tore chunks of blacktop out of a parking lot and filled the Columbus Regional Hospital basement with water. The hospital’s pharmacy, a laboratory and its food services area were submerged.

Its first-floor emergency room and a cancer center also were damaged, forcing the hospital to either discharge or move its 157 patients. Workers have removed standing water from the building, but spokesman Larry Meade said they haven’t finished a damage estimate.

A restored 1972 Chevrolet Nova sat streaked with mud outside the home of hospital neighbor Cindy Spann.

“They just hauled away a full-sized van,” Spann said. “We lost five vehicles, they were totally submerged.”

Spann said water engulfed her home so quickly, she and her husband were lucky to escape with their lives. That put the damage in perspective.

“I can’t put a value on any of my things because all of it’s replaceable,” she said. “None of this is important.”

Cindy Hashman had only minutes to grab a few pictures off the wall before creek water crashed through the basement windows of her mother’s Columbus home. Hashman and her children had been living in the home’s refinished basement so they could care for her 78-year-old mother.

Her son managed to save a computer and a flat-screen television. But by Tuesday afternoon, a small mountain of ruined mattresses, books and furniture had accumulated on the curb outside, running nearly the length of the home.

Hashman said her mom has no flood insurance. She lost three TVs, two computers and three DVD/VCR players. But she said her biggest losses were her children’s baby books and all the pictures she couldn’t save.

“My kids were cheerleaders, I had a daughter on the swim team,” she said. “Home movies of all their Christmases growing up, that’s the most valuable to me.”

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