Recovery still continues in flood ravaged areas

Meyer, June 18, 2008

Today marks one year since two Tri-State levees systems lost their battle with the Mighty Mississippi.

To learn about Meyer's recovery:

To learn about South Indian Graves' recovery:

But time hasn't healed all wounds. Recovery continues everywhere touched by flood waters.

Here's a timeline of what happened last year.

Around one in the morning on June 18th the Lima Lake Drainage District levee at Meyer collapsed under the swelling Mississippi. That sent millions of gallons of water crashing into the town of Meyer and nearby farm fields of crops.

A few hours later the South Indian Graves levee broke here just a few miles downstream.

Many who lived in the town of Meyer never believed they would have to live through another flood like the one in '93. But the dark flood waters came much like a thief in the middle of the night.

Adams County Emergency Management Director John Simon remembers that morning.

Simon said, "Water was starting to flow. It was one of those eerily quiet moments. If we look back a year ago, the community had come together but it's was a very somber moment."

The destruction was widespread and devastating. When the flood receded the town was changed forever. Last year, 35 people called Meyer home. But after flood water took over the small town of Meyer last year, only ten residents returned to this tiny town.

Norma Griggs is one of them. She's lived in Meyer 30 years, returning to town after the flood of '93.

What's recovery been like for you?

Griggs said, "Slow. We're a little old to be starting over and that's what it amounts to."

Ursa Farmers Co-op made one of the quickest recoveries, opening back up to the public within months. The Co-op's Divison Manager Terry Schlipman says it's all part of living and working here.

Schlipman said, "The lord will give us water again. I am sure we'll have to fight this again. Anytime you fight the Mississippi, it will show us who's boss."

Griggs said, "It's home and what else are you going to do? We're too old to start over in a new place. It will always be home."

What you might not realize is when the levee broke in Meyer, it also flooded the Hunt Drainage District to the North. There is no levee separating the Lima Lake and Hunt drainage districts. Thousands of acres of farmland and dozens of homes were covered with upwards of 15 to 20 feet of water in some places.

Now corn and beans hide much of the flooded areas and damaged homes. You'll remember talking with local farmer Bob Kerr, Jr. who lived there. Since last year, Kerr has moved his family to higher ground. He's returned to plant his crops but says he's hesitant to move back completely.

Kerr went through the flood of '93, but he says recovery this time has been slow.

Bob Kerr, Jr. said, "Through the whole process there was a lot of help from a lot of people but there were also broken promises. Man of them were FEMA related. Most people affected in every breached area could probably say the same thing."

Just a few hours after the Lima Lake Levee was breached in Meyer, there was shocking news of a second break.

This time in South Indian Graves.

Residents who remember that fateful day like it was yesterday.

Resident Luke Lyter said, "I looked over and it looked like a waterfall. Water was coming down on the land."

Away from the break, farmland was being invaded by the Mississippi. All that could be heard was the sound of bubbles as the water forced animals and birds to retreat.

Indian Graves Drainage District Commisioner Duke Lyter said, "It was a sinking feeling really a bitter disappointment to think were going to go through this again. At that time we didn't realize how bad it was going to be."

But it was bad. When the river broke through the Indian Graves levee, the current washed away barns and farm equipment from Duke Lyter's farm. Evidence of its power can still be seen in this 18 feet deep scour hole. Lyter says he's still finding equipment buried in the sand that was carried in.

Duke Lyter said, "Every day you think of something else you lost."

The Levees here have been repaired and the pump house is on its way back working order, but things here are a long way from being back to normal. Evidence of that is around every corner.

Luke Lyter has lived here in South Indian Graves Drainage District all his life. And after a lot of work, he's moving back. But it's a changed place.

Luke Lyter said, "It's like being back home again but its different because the sand is everywhere."

But like many in the river bottoms, Lyter accepts the river's ups and downs and returns to the only place he calls home.