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Rains swamp W.Va. mobile home park

March 23, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

by Richard T. Meagher / staff photographer

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Trailer flood

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Some property owners in the flood-prone Sportsman's Paradise subdivision may get relief soon from the federal government, but in other water-logged areas, residents have to find their own solutions.

As part of a $13 million federal flood mitigation program for West Virginia, 42 properties in Berkeley and Jefferson counties are expected to be purchased, including some in Sportsman's Paradise, according to Gov. Underwood's office.

Meanwhile, the folks in Pineview Mobile Home Park on U.S. 11 - which some now refer to as "Pineview Lake" - hope they've found relief with the Berkeley County Commission, which has agreed to ask the state for help in correcting a drainage problem.

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Even a short, but steady rainfall turns the development into a swamp. This weekend was no exception.

"This is the worst I've seen it in five years," William Diehl said Sunday, surveying the three- to four-foot deep water surrounding his corner mobile home.

Residents say water has always collected at the low-lying trailer park, but didn't get severe until the last year, when a nearby field was plowed, elevated and turned into a salvage yard.

Now the water runs into the park, spilling over on U.S. 11 and the park's access road before collecting in the yard of a doctor's office.

When the flooding became intolerable, residents came up with their own solution. They cleaned out the clogged culverts, which are supposed to pass water under the driveway, through a ditch and under U.S. 11.

Dr. Michael Kisner, whose office is next to the park, believes those steps will fix 90 percent of the problem.

"We have the manpower to do it, we just need the money," said Judy Rankin, manager of Pineview.

This month, the Berkeley County Commission said it will pursue that option. County Engineer William Teach will survey the area and pass on his findings to the West Virginia Division of Highways, which must approve any work.

"It has been a consistent flooding problem that has become more severe," said Laura Rose, a Martinsburg attorney representing Rankin. "It's flooding the park, creating road hazards. It's not just a few people who are affected."

Diehl is used to the moat surrounding his lot, which has become more of a nuisance each year.

In the summer, neighborhood children swim in his yard. He had to build a deck so his son and daughter can play outside without getting in the water.

But they don't play that often, he said, because the mobile home is so damp, 6-year-old Tiffany and 10-year-old Bubby are always sick.

"The insulation is constantly getting wet and my kids have been sick since we moved in here," Diehl said. "The doctor has files on them at least four inches thick."

Diehl estimates he's made 50 emergency room visits for his childrens' ailments, who have missed many school days because of illness and the inability to get out of the house because of the water.

He can't move the trailer to a new lot because it would fall apart from the water damage. And moving elsewhere is out of the question.

"I can't afford it," Diehl said. "If I had the money, I'd be long gone."

Diehl said the county and state need to step in and help correct the problem, not just because of the road hazards, but because of the health hazards his family has experienced.

"If the government is around to regulate everything else, it ought to be around for this," Diehl said. "The state and the county both need to make a combined effort."

The Berkeley County properties expected to be included in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood program, according to Gov. Underwood's office, are in the Sportsman's Paradise subdivision in Falling Waters.

Last week, authorities announced 29 properties would be bought or elevated and moved from flood plains at a cost of $1.65 million.

Deborah Sheetenhelm, Berkeley County administrator, said the properties will be bought through 75 percent federal funding and 25 percent state funding. They will then be transferred to the County Commission, which plans to transfer the properties to the Department of Environmental Protection for river access, Sheetenhelm said.

It's not clear when the buyouts will begin or exactly which properties will be part of the plan. The state requested a 90-day extension from FEMA, Sheetenhelm said.

She couldn't say if the extension would affect the Berkeley County properties.

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