Neighborhood near Big Ditch has basement flooding problems

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The City of Wichita asks residents not to let sump pumps drain into the street and down into the already overloaded sewer system. The City of Wichita asks residents not to let sump pumps drain into the street and down into the already overloaded sewer system.

"It's 1500 square feet down there and every bit of it's underwater, or was," said Odie Edwards about her basement in West Wichita Wednesday.

The Big Ditch saved their neighborhood from flooding.  But now neighbors are dealing with another problem caused by so much rain.  In at least one neighborhood just east of the Big Ditch the water came anyway, as the water table rose to new heights.

"They're tearing out the sheet rock and all the mold, the mold set in down there and they're getting that out of the house," Odie said, describing the work a half dozen volunteers are doing on her home.

"It's not going to be the same as it was before, I tell ya!" her husband, Jim Edwards, said.  "It's been an experience."

Odie is 94.  Jim is 88. The couple has lived in this home for a quarter century now.  They find it hard to sit back and watch as volunteers are doing rip out molded drywall, sweep up the floors, and generally clean out their basement.

"All volunteers," Jim marveled. 

"Good neighbors and friends," Odie added.

The nearby Big Ditch was supposed to protect their home from flooding by diverting floodwaters from the Arkansas River around the city.

"No more floods is what they said.  But the people who said that aren't around anymore," Jim said.

"They insisted we wouldn't need flood insurance for this area," Odie said.  "But it seemed like somebody was wrong."

They say with all that rain we got in May, the water table rose so high, it found new ways to sneak inside their home.

"The water pressure itself, from underneath where it raised up, cracked the basement in a couple of places and that's where water was coming in," Jim explained.  

One small crack running across about three quarters of the basement floor let in a constant stream of water for weeks, filling the basement with some two inches.  That may not sound like a big flood, but it's more than enough to do big damage.  The crew helping out Wednesday is taking the basement down to the studs in most places.

The Edwards say, they're not alone.

"Almost everybody who has a basement, down Benjamin, down Cardinal, has water problems," Odie said.

"They're still pumping water out of some of them," Jim added.

That water creating small rivers along the edges of the roads throughout the neighborhood.

Odie says she's struggled to sleep lately with the stress of worrying about how to clean-up her basement. 

"This hall was full, that bedroom was full and then the big room," she explained, pointing out where the water was in her basement.  "All was about yay deep," she gestured holding her first finger and thumb about two inches apart.

"Personally, it makes me sad for the homeowner.  It's just kind of devastating to see your once finished basement be taken down to the studs," said Marilyn Small, who's leading the crew of volunteers at the Edwards' home.

Marilyn and the other volunteers work with the United Methodist Great Plains Disaster Response Team.  They've been busy this year, helping clean up after disasters such as floods and tornadoes across Nebraska and Kansas.

"My husband and I were out in the flooding in Kingman and Pratt," she said.  "And then have been up in Nebraska in April for times there..... We have been down in Butler County.  We've been in Mulvane, Rose Hill, Augusts, El Dorado..."

And now they're in Wichita, helping folks like the Edwards.

"There's something like 115 homes on the list right now.  Plus there's about 60 mobile homes that need the skirting and insulation removed," said Larry Van Dyke, another volunteer with the group.

"We'll get this cleaned up and it won't look the same," Marilyn reassures Odie as she looks around the now bare basement. 

The volunteers can't prevent disasters like this, but there's plenty they can do to help speed the recovery process.  It's a blessing both Marilyn and Larry understand on a personal basis.

"We just had a sump pump go out at our house," Marilyn said, looking around Odie's basement.  "So my basement looks very similar to this one. I can feel for them. I know what it feels like."

"I've been through this kind of thing in one of my previous houses," Larry said.  "Not quite this bad, but I know what this is like."

The Edwards say, once all the wet mess is out of their home, they don't think they'll rebuild.

"Well, I suppose when we get it all dried out we won't be using the basement anymore," Odie said.  "Just leave it like it is."

"I've got all the bad words out of my system now," Jim laughed.  "I'm ready to start over."

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