Residents survey flood damage in Allenville

Saturday, March 22, 2008
KIT DOYLE ~ Gerald Sebastian saw his granddaughter, Kaylee Williams, 2, Friday, March 21, 2008, for the first time since she and the rest of the family was evacuated Wednesday from their Allenville home. Sebastian, who stayed in Allenville through the flooding, tore out the home's ruined carpets , left, earlier Friday. The Sebastians had about six inches in their home.

The only route to Allenville was guarded by sheriff's deputies Friday. Water still surrounded the impoverished town of 110, but had receded enough to allow residents to return home to survey the damage. Some were joyfully reunited with relatives who refused to evacuate. Others shook their heads as they learned their houses had flooded, which buckled floors and destroyed carpet. Still others returned to find their dogs or livestock dead.

Phil Thompson stayed put during Wednesday morning's evacuations to care for his terminally ill mother, Dorothy. He watched his wife, daughter, son-in-law and grandson load a rescue boat and power through waist-high water, while he headed south to his mother's home. There he and other family members took turns napping and keeping an eye on water levels.

"I don't think anybody dreamed of this. Everyone kept getting scared, and I said, 'It will stop.' '82 was bad. I thought we couldn't top that," he said.

His mother, 87, survived, and her house did not flood. But when Thompson returned to his home, recently remodeled, he found a different story. Ten inches of water had accumulated, causing the tile to buckle and leaving mildew and mud. Next door, Thompson Upholstery, the only business in town, was also flooded. Trash and corn stalks littered the mostly-dry roads.

"It was devastating," he said.

On Friday, he did not know what his plan of action would be. "I don't know what we're going to do," he said. He did not have flood insurance.

Although Allenville is less than a mile from the Diversion Channel, which collects water from four major streams and takes the water to the Mississippi River, the town has never experienced flooding like this week, residents said over and over. Most said they never thought the water would rise as quickly as it did or to the extent that it did.

KIT DOYLE ~ Seven-year-old Adrianna Medley played in a boat Friday, March 21, 2008, that was used to help ecacuate Medley and her family earlier in the week in Allenville, where flood waters were up to four feet deep in some areas.

"Everyone knew the water was coming. No one expected it to be like this," said Mayor Erie Foster.

Foster, along with his brother Ethan and residents Jason Dozier and Mark Headrick, stayed in town to help evacuate people. Out of 110 people, about 15 to 20 stayed. Fear of looting kept some in town, Foster said.

As water rose early Wednesday morning, most people drove their vehicles or equipment to Whitewater Street and then gathered at the city hall, a one-story barnlike structure. Crews of rescue workers, including those from Water Patrol and the Delta Fire Department, loaded people directly into boats. Five to six people were taken at a time across the Diversion Channel, where they were then transported by truck to the Delta Community Center.

"The water was so cold, and the waves were white-capping. I was scared for my life," Headrick said.

KIT DOYLE ~ After returning to Allenville Friday, March 21, 2008, Trevor Fluegge, 8, explored the standing water behind his home. Allenville residents say that the flooding was worse than was seen in 1982, 1993, 1995, or 2002.

Crews watched railroad ties, a dead dog, and a one point, a 500-gallon liquid propane tank float by. Headrick said he stayed to keep an eye on his place and to help everyone else out of town.

Dozier helped save a horse up to its neck in water by putting a rope on it and pulling the animal to safety. Authorities were trying to determine how to dispose of six goats, three turkeys and 10 chickens Friday.

Less than ten homes flooded, but the skirts were ripped off many of the mobile homes, destroying the flooring or insulation as water rose. After seeing their homes, Foster said he expected some to leave again, afraid the town would be reflooded as the Mississippi River rises and forces itself into the Diversion Channel.

Usually the West Cape Girardeau County town becomes an island during flooding, and this week was no exception. Parts of county roads 233, 241, 236 and 253 leading to the town were closed, inundated with water. Only County Road 238 was passable.

The town was mostly quiet by sundown, except for the sound of dogs barking. Deputies were expected to patrol the streets at night to prevent break-ins to empty homes.

"At least we're alive. That's all that matters," said Brenda Sebastian.

335-6611, extension 123

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