Flood recovery challenges family

MICHAEL KELLY The Marietta Times Soaked debris sits by the curb at the home of Jim and Connie Wright on South Sixth Street on Thursday. The couple’s home was damaged extensively by February flooding.

A snarl of soggy carpet lies amid a pile of green garbage bags in front of the South Sixth Street house, under a pink sign with red lettering that reads, “Flood Victim, Help.”

Inside, Jim Wright walks around the living area of his house, a cup of coffee in one hand, gesturing at the damage from two weeks ago when the Ohio River became an uninvited guest. Drywall is stripped off at about the three-foot level, the floor is bare concrete where there used to be wall-to-wall carpet and extension cords snake up the narrow spiral staircase to the second floor, feeding electricity to three electric space heaters.

Through a doorway into the kitchen, a 10-foot Formica counter balances atop a jumble of cabinets. The bottoms of the remaining cabinet bases are swollen and knock-kneed, a decommissioned clothes dryer sits in the center of the floor and a gaping cavity and disconnected vents in a utility room suggest where the furnace used to be.

Wright, who is 65, retired and disabled — he has lung troubles and got a shoulder replacement two years ago — said he rescued the furnace before the water came in and managed to raise the living room sofa on step ladders, but the dryer’s a write-off. His wife Connie picks up a soggy towel out of the drum — the cabinets are ruined and none of the electrical outlets on the ground floor are working. The space heaters are the only heat in the two-story house, and a microwave and a couple other small appliances set up on a bedroom dresser upstairs constitute what for the time being is their kitchen.

While an army of volunteers helped move merchandise and fixtures out of the flood’s path at Front Street businesses, areas of the nearby south side were getting under water with no help within hailing distance.

MICHAEL KELLY The Marietta Times Connie Wright shows the water level that engulfed her car during the February floods on Thursday. Her house on South Sixth Street sustained significant damage as the Ohio River peaked. She and her husband, Jim Wright, spent a week in a motel as the water receded.

Jim recalls the water coming in.

“I said, hurry up, Con, get upstairs, and I was flipping breaker switches, trying to get the downstairs electricity off,” he said.

He said he’s seen it before — holding a work-hardened hand up at about the six-foot level in his living room, he indicates where the water topped out during the 2004 and 2005 floods.

Connie Wright, 62, said the Red Cross got them hotel accommodations for a week after the flood, but finding help was difficult.

“We kept getting referred from one agency to another,” she said.

They ultimately received help from Caring Connection, churches, St. Vincent De Paul and state emergency services agencies. American Flags and Poles loaned them an electric space heater.

Jim Wright has worked in construction and other jobs during his life and is a skilled handyman, but the couple are on a fixed income and, he said, looking for help with materials and appliances. They had flood insurance until 2015, when an increase in premiums made it unaffordable, Connie said.

“It could have been worse, I guess,” Jim said, looking at the west wall of their living area and gesturing at the windows and the door. “In 2004, I had to replace all this.”

That was the year, he said, they laid down ceramic tile in the kitchen, which held up well to February’s flood.

Connie’s Ford Fiesta also fell victim to the water, immersed up to the wheelwells when the river rose.

The Wrights have lived in the neighborhood all their lives, and Connie said she grew up just a block away from the place they live now. Asked whether they have considered moving away from the flood-prone area, Jim said, “Where are we supposed to go?”

“We’d sell it,” Connie said. “For the right price.”

Jim remains philosophical.

“A lot of people lost a lot more than we did,” he said.

If you need help in a flood

¯ Call Washington County 211 for information.

¯ Contact the Washington County Emergency Management Agency at 740-373-5613.

Source: Times research.