March 26, 2008 Edition

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This photo, submitted by John and Eileen Veer of Strawberry, shows the intersection of Highways 117 and 115 at Jessup on Wednesday.
Submitted Photo

Communities unite
in response to flood



J.L. Wright of Hoxie and family members and friends built a levee around his home on Thursday as the rising water threatened to cover his yard. Steve Davis (background) uses a backhoe, which is sitting in floodwaters, to help construct the levee.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt


Road closed signs have been a familiar sight in Lawrence County over the past week. Floodwaters in the road that runs beside Latham's Grocery in Portia were especially deep as shown by the road sign in the background.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt
Flooding in Lawrence County has slowly begun to recede but the effects of it are going to be around for a while. Many county residents had firsthand experience with just how frightening nature can be.

Don and Ludie Tapp who live just below the Powhatan Historic Courthouse evacuated their home with the help of family. The rapidly rising floodwaters made it hard to move furniture and the group built a temporary bridge to carry it to safety.

"It was kind of a sick feeling," Ludie Tapp said. "Looking at the possibility of losing everything. You feel so helpless."

The Tapps have been fortunate enough to be able to return to their home but some in Lawrence County are still waiting to get into theirs. In the Portia Bay area several homes are still inaccessible. Floodwaters remain over roads and access to the homes along the bay is still not possible.

LaDonna Maxie who lives in the Coffey Addition in Black Rock said she was amazed by the amount of water that quickly filled up her neighborhood. Maxie and her husband, Bobby, are both members of the Black Rock Volunteer Fire Department.

"My husband and I have been remodeling our home and we've added four rooms," LaDonna said. "Now they're all gone. The floors and walls are all buckled and warped and everything will have to be redone."

On Tuesday, Mayor Bud McLaughlin of Black Rock said there were still several places under water. He said Main Street was still covered, but not with the four feet of water it had during the worst of the flooding.

The historic Powhatan Courthouse sits high above the other buildings on the grounds of the state park. Park Director Corinne Fletcher said that the telephone exchange building had about 20 inches of water in it. "The floor is covered in mud and buckled in many places," she said. "Luckily it was the only building to take significant damage."

While most of the residents of Lawrence County got out of their flooded homes without incident, Tal Durham was not so fortunate. Durham, who is a farmer, was injured when the four-wheeler he was riding overturned and broke his collarbone and shoulder.

"It was a freak accident," Durham said. "One of our calves had gotten out so I jumped on the four-wheeler to chase him. The calf slipped in the mud and fell and I hit him. I flipped the four-wheeler and went flying."

Their home was completely surrounded by water, and Durham was unable to get help. He spent the night without medical attention before a friend brought a boat in and took him out to the highway so he could be transported to the hospital.

"We couldn't get out, Durham said. "There was five feet of water across the road. I just had to tough it out."

Durham and his wife, Mandy, farm at Jesup with their two sons, Clint and Walker. Durham said his family has been wonderful since the accident. "Mandy took care of me the night of the accident," he said. "She was really great. The boys have been doing the chores and keeping the animals fed."

Mary Richey of Powhatan who attends Freedom Church said that she has been amazed at how wonderful the Lawrence County community has been. When she arrived at the church on Easter she said the water was already running across Highway 67.

"We had to move everything up to a higher spot to protect it," she said. "About 40 people pitched in and helped. We were working in the dark because there was no electricity."

Rev. Glenn Chadwick who pastors Freedom Church said that both the county officials and residents of Lawrence County have been outstanding. We were able to build a levee around our church and protect it from flooding," he said. The group also built levees around other structures close by.

"I wouldn't want this to happen to anybody," LaDonna Maxie said. "But you really learn about how good people can be. I can't thank the Black Rock Fire Department enough. They came and moved my furniture and belongings to safety and they did it for everyone else on this block, as well."

Ludie Tapp summed it up with, "You hear so much about how nobody cares, but I cannot believe the goodness in people. It is wonderful what people will do if you need help."

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