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Subdivision residents live with flooding woes

June 16, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - When Jess and Elaine Mauck leave their Berkeley County home, they have to slowly maneuver their van down a long road covered with about a foot of water.

It's been that way for the past three weeks for the Maucks and other residents of Horner's Subdivision, a development of about 50 homes between Shepherdstown, W.Va., and Martinsburg, W.Va.

Even though flooding is nothing new to residents of the 30-year-old neighborhood, some said this year has been particularly bad, as a snowy winter and wet spring have left the ground saturated.

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"This is the worst it's ever been," said Nelson Robinson, 76, who built a modular home there 31 years ago and has seen the neighborhood go underwater three other times.

Residents have been trying to get the government to help them for at least a decade but so far no one has taken action.

After some intense lobbying by subdivision residents at the Berkeley County Commission meeting last week, the commissioners wrote to Gov. Bob Wise seeking a flooding disaster declaration for the county.

"It is our hope to obtain federal assistance in the cleanup resulting from this flooding," the commissioners wrote to Wise.

The Maucks are among the lucky ones. Their house is built on a hill, so they only have to deal with it when they come and go via County Line Road, their only point of access.

Others have water lapping at the doorsteps of their homes.

Robinson said the water level is within 5 inches of his floor.

At least five of his neighbors have gone to live elsewhere until the water recedes, he said.

One neighbor who decided to stay constantly is pumping water out of his basement.

"It's just going out in the yard and coming back," Robinson said.

If people want to visit the Maucks, they are asked what kind of car they will be driving. If it's not a truck or other vehicle with high ground clearance, the Maucks offer to meet them along W.Va. 45.

"It's been so long, we can't remember normal life. You just get used to it," Jess Mauck said.

After the last flood in the mid-1990s, Robinson said he had to replace the muffler, the starter and the brakes on his car because of the water damage.

This time, he is taking precautions. His wife parks her new Chrysler on dry land off W.Va. 45. When she goes to work at Wal-Mart, he takes her to her car in his pickup truck.

Robinson said he would not have moved there had he known the area was prone to flooding.

But now he doesn't want to leave because he likes the quiet nature of the neighborhood. Besides that, he's invested a lot in his house, which is now paid off.

The Maucks believe the problem got worse when one resident was permitted to bring in fill dirt to build up a lot, diverting more water into the road instead of a nearby pond.

In 1993, then-Berkeley County Administrator Daniel R. O'Donnell wrote a letter to Mauck indicating there could be an engineering solution to the problem.

However, residents would have to organize and help pay for the project. Survey work alone would have cost $8,000 to $9,000, the letter said.

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