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Elkhart residents spend the weekend cleaning up flood damage

The river swells to cover houses and a pavillion in water
Jennifer Weingart


As flood waters continue receding some people are able to get back into their homes to clean-up, but other houses are still underwater.

On top of that, power is still shut off for safety and some areas have to deal with looting.

Generators hum all through formerly flooded neighborhoods in Elkhart as residents pump out water and work on drying their basements.

There’s no electricity here. The power was shut off to prevent electrical fires.

West of the Elkhart River on Middlebury Street, Maria Esparenza Granadoes is pulling wet things out of her basement and piling them up on the curb for trash pick up.

A woman and three young boys stand in a yard among salvaged items with a pile of wet trash on the curb
Credit Jennifer Weingart
Maria Esperanza Granadoes (in pink) leans over to pull something out of her basement window. She had friend helping her clean up waterlogged belongs and drag them to the curb for trash pick up.

“Everyone has been working on it all day, last couple days since the streets were clean and we are capable to come into our houses," she daid. "We been cleaning, trying to take the water out but water’s still coming in. The river is too high and raining more. It’s very hard to keep up.”

Granadoes said they were evacuated. She said even if they wanted to come back now and live in the house, they can’t.

“Our heater, our water heater, everything is downstairs and all that is gone too. And so even if we have power we wouldn’t be able to live here because we not going to have no heat.”

Granadoes said they’re almost done cleaning it out, but she’s still feeling the loss, “It’s like half of your life is gone. Because, I mean, you work hard for all you needs and they’re gone in one...and you cannot do anything about it.”

She said she had homeowners insurance but it didn’t cover flooding. A few blocks over on Aspenwald Avenue, Jay Zalaya said they same thing.

“We got insurance but because we are like a block and a half from the river we never thought we need to have flood insurance, but now we know that we have to.”

Zalaya said they knew there would be flooding, but not this much. He had water up to the top step from his basement.“We never thought it would be this bad. We thought it would only be a couple feet of water, but it really got up, we never seen that before.”

Across the street Amanda Morgan is pumping water out of her basement too. “It came all the way up our back steps almost to our kitchen," she said. They estimated it at 42 thousand gallons of water in the basement. And it’s taken what? 15 hours? To get what it is now, it’s only at two foot now.”

She said the clean up has been gross. “It’s so nasty! It just, it’s not just water. It’s sewage and whatever’s floatin’ in the lake, or river or whatever, you know, it’s the Elkhart River, so whatever’s floating, it’s in there.”

Morgan said they were able to come back in with a boat when the flood waters were high and get things out of the house, but they still lost a lot.

“We lost furniture, we lost pictures that we can’t get back, memories, clothes, but that’s ok, we’re all still alive so that’s what matters, right?”

Besides the flooding there have been issues with people trying to burglarize evacuated homes. Zalaya said the police presence has helped.

“It’s dark during the night and there’s been people trying to break up into other people’s houses, so we just keep an eye on everybody and we say thank you to the police, they’ve been coming around and check everything out make sure that besides everything that’s going on people don’t break into our houses.”

A man looks down a street that is flooded
Jeff Michael looks down 5th Street at the houses that are still inaccessible and standing in water.

Across town, on 5th street, Jeff Michael is working for landlords, pumping water out of rental houses. He said there have been looting issues in the area.

“They got these flood lights on to keep the people from comin’ in and lootin the place. There’s nothing in this place to steal, these people are poor anyways, why would you come down here and take from them. You’re gonna get $100 for a flat screen, come on, you know?”

Besides looting, whole blocks in this area northwest of downtown are still standing in water. That, coupled with the slope of the land means several houses are leaning over on damaged foundations.

“That house is already starting to lean, the doors are. He can’t even open his doors hardly so we got a lot of foundation damage.”

Michael said he thinks some of them are going to just have to come down once the water recedes enough.

There are a lot of people that don’t know when they will be able to get back into their homes to assess damage, let alone if or when they’ll be able to live there again.

Mike Donnelly is a landlord with several properties in the city. One on Washington Street that’s still inaccessible. Back on Middlebury Street he’s pumping water out of a basement. “I just wish this was over. That they can get the power back on so I can start the final repairs out here and get this over with.”


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