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Basements overcome by flooding

June 26, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

In the Inwood East Estates subdivision, where streets are named after Civil War generals, some residents have found themselves fighting their own battle.

The enemy is water.

After heavy rainfalls Saturday night, water poured into several basements in the subdivision, destroying toys, family photographs, furniture and appliances, residents said.

One woman is dealing with the problem while her husband is stationed in Iraq, while another, a single mother of two, credits her friends with helping her pull through.


Today, officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Gov. Bob Wise's office are to tour Inwood East Estates, off W.Va. 51, and Horner's Subdivision, off W.Va. 45 at the Berkeley-Jefferson County line.

If FEMA officials declare Berkeley County a disaster area, affected residents could receive federal assistance.

On Wednesday, windows were open in Valeria Skagg's home and an apology was offered for any odor that standing water may have caused.

"It's the worst I've ever seen," Skaggs said.

Skaggs' husband, John Skaggs Sr., is stationed in Iraq as a sergeant with the 152nd - a military police unit of the Army National Guard. He left for Indiana in March and for Iraq in late May.

The couple's three children are staying with different relatives. Their youngest turns 6 today.

In Skaggs' basement, a soggy VHS box for the movie "The Full Monty" floated in a few inches of water. A TV lay face-down in water, while a soggy mattress was propped up. Marble-top tables, the last furniture Skaggs has that belonged to her late father, was ruined, she said.

Nearly all of the more than 5 feet of water that poured into Skagg's house Saturday evening had receded, but Skaggs said some still was trickling inside.

A couple of streets away, Tia Fosberg had a shovel in her hands as she and several friends cleaned out her basement, which she said was filled with nearly 6 feet of water Saturday evening.

After Fosberg learned it would cost $10,000 for professional crews to gut her finished basement, she decided to try to do it herself.

Neighbors and friends pitched in, hauling out insulation, drywall, paneling and toys. A soggy stuffed Elmo - a character from Sesame Street - lay in one corner. Carpet in her basement was wet, and one's footprint indentations briefly would fill with water.

Four days earlier, as Fosberg watched, water forced open a steel exterior door that leads to the basement and caused an interior wall to cave inward, she said.

Water came one stair away from reaching her kitchen, she said, and "By the grace of God, the water stopped."

After the water flooded her basement, destroying family memorabilia and other items, Fosberg said, she went outside.

"I stood here all night with the neighbors, watching for the water to stop," she said. Around midnight, it did.

When Fosberg returned the next morning, she bought a heavy-duty sump pump. More than an estimated 90,000 gallons of water later, her basement was almost dry, she said.

Before last weekend, Fosberg said, her two smaller sump pumps kept up with any water.

John Reisenweber, a local field representative for U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., walked through several homes in the subdivision Wednesday.

"Once a disaster is declared, the money can actually flow pretty quickly," he told Fosberg. Reisenweber said he could not make any promises about disaster relief, especially since flooding may have been worse in southern parts of the state.

Fosberg, 28, said her house was appraised in April as being worth $160,000. She can only guess what it is worth now.

Because the subdivision is not in a flood plain, homeowners cannot obtain flood insurance.

"There's absolutely nothing I could've done," Fosberg said. "It's just stand there and watch half your house be destroyed."

By the time water running through Fosberg's back yard reached a nearby drain, her basement already was flooded, she said. Once the water reached the drain, it was slow to go down because the drain was partially blocked, she said.

A neighbor waded in chin-deep water to clear away the drain and both Fosberg and Skaggs credit him with preventing even more damage to their homes.

Once she clears out her basement, Fosberg said she wants to disinfect it so her children, who are staying with their father, can come home.

"I don't want them to see the basement. It'll crush them," she said.

Fosberg said she worried that every time it rains, her 5-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter will worry they again will lose their toys.

Eventually, she hopes to move.

Skaggs, however, said she loves the split-level house in which she and her husband have lived for five years.

"I would give anything in the world to be able to keep my home," she said.

She said she has dealt with water problems before, including a foot or so of water that came into her basement when the snow melted in March.

"How many times does a person have to keep starting over?" Skaggs said.

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