Family home lost to river’s rising waters

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, April 15, 2003

WANILLA — About four years ago, Calvin Estridge moved from Ohioto help take care of his elderly parents at their cabin on thePearl River in Lawrence County.

Saturday night, Estridge stayed behind as his parents, Willieand Eva Rushing, were evacuated to his sister’s home in Madisonwhen rising river waters threatened the cabin on old Highway 27. Heestimated 15 feet of ground was lost as high water eroded the bankto within a few feet of the structure.

“Somebody needs to pay attention to this, because this isn’t ourdoing,” Estridge said Monday.

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Estridge blames dam control overseers at the Ross BarnettReservoir for releasing water too quickly while trying to protecthomes in Madison County and elsewhere in that area.

“They flooded this area out, and the water cuts like a knife,”said Estridge, adding that a nearby fish restaurant was alsothreatened.

Attempts to contact the Pearl River Valley Water SupplyDistrict, which oversees the reservoir dam, were unsuccessfulMonday and Tuesday morning.

Estridge said the water level, which he estimated at 21 feetMonday, was higher than a few weeks ago after the Lawrence Countyarea received a heavy rain. However, the rainfall then soaked theground and did not create a swift current in the river.

“The current wasn’t half this fast,” Estridge said incomparison.

Swift currents, erosion and flooding are not new to MonticelloMayor Dave Nichols.

“It’s causing terrible sloughing off the banks,” said Nichols,who mentioned a home inside the city limits that is also facingerosion concerns.

Nichols said the Atwood Water Park was flooded Saturday, but notas badly as a few weeks ago.

“We always try to take some precautionary measures when we knowit’s going to flood,” said Nichols, adding that the city was notable to do so this time.

Nichols reported better communication between city officials andthe Pearl River district, but he indicated there is room forimprovement. The mayor said he can call the dam control tower tosee how much water is being released at any given time.

“Our dealings with them are better than what they have been, butnowhere near what they should be,” Nichols said.

Nichols said there are a number of variables, such as rain inspecific areas and water from tributaries, that affect how high thewater level is in Monticello.

“The bottom line is the reservoir was not built for floodcontrol,” said Nichols, contradicting legislation that authorizedconstruction of the reservoir.

Nichols said the reservoir now serves water supply andrecreational purposes.

“It’s just going to get worse,” Nichols said about potentialfuture problems.

The worst arrived Saturday for Estridge’s parents when they hadto leave the home they have lived in for about 10 years. LawrenceCounty volunteer firefighters and others assisted in theevacuation.

“We helped them get loaded up and moved out,” said RoyceRenfroe, deputy director of the Lawrence County Civil Defense.

Estridge said some items in the home were salvaged. Others, suchas fence posts from a fence that was lost to the erosion, weredonated to the county.

The gas company was called Monday to remove the gas tank.

“Everybody’s been real helpful,” Estridge said.

Estridge, who is staying at a neighbor’s home, said his parents’home is now uninhabitable.

The home cannot be moved back away from the river becausesurrounding property was lost to the county in a right of waydispute when a new highway was built a few years ago, Estridgesaid. He said flood insurance is not possible because the home ison a river, and if it were, he said his parents could not afford iton their $1,400 a month from Social Security.

Estridge said the home was collateral for a $23,000 loan. Hefears the bank could foreclose and his parents end up inbankruptcy.

“The cabin’s not much. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s allthey had,” Estridge said.

Estridge said rain is in the forecast for Thursday. He expectedto lose a tree near the river bank and more property then.

“If we get the rain, that’s gone. If not, it’ll stay until thenext rain,” Estridge said.