Repeat of floods swamps loyalties in West Memphis

The Gordon family went fishing Thursday in the flooded streets of their West Memphis neighborhood, looking to recapture Japanese koi that made their getaway from a backyard pond on a rising tide of floodwater.

But the adventure of capturing koi only provided amusing moments at a grim time.

Mark Gordon, 46, said the floodwaters that struck the family’s home on Tuesday ruined a four-month, $50,000 renovation that repaired damage from flooding that struck after torrential rains one year ago on May 1.

“I’ve got five girls and it’s too much for a family to overcome in one year,” Gordon said on Thursday as sunny skies helped dry floodwater that still covered the street and sidewalk outside his home.

While a friend’s generator provided electricity and ruined carpet piled up in the soggy front yard, Gordon said he’s not the only one thinking about walking away, despite having a home mortgage and flood insurance.

“I’m going to give it back to Bank of America if FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) doesn’t buy it,” he said.

Because of repeated flooding over years, the corner of Bond and Oliver in West Memphis may have been among the hardest hit as a three-day storm packed damaging winds and deposited a total of 7.78 inches of rain at Memphis International Airport.

Ronny Rogers, emergency management coordinator for Crittenden County, said an estimated 300 to 400 homes in West Memphis and Marion had been affected by the flooding triggered by heavy rains that also submerged roads and caused power outages.

John Rimmer, general manger of West Memphis Utilities, said that 90 percent of the utility’s customers had power restored by Thursday, leaving about 1,200 to 1,500 in the dark. Except for those requiring an electrician, he expected all customers to have lights by Saturday.

In Memphis and Shelby County, storm repairs continued as communities watched levels of the Mississippi River and its tributaries continue to rise.

In Midtown Memphis, Catholic High School was closed Thursday and will remain so today after high winds on Wednesday splintered five utility poles along McLean. Memphis Light, Gas and Water forecast that all of its customers would have lights by Saturday.

In Collierville, minor flooding occurred in three homes on Sycamore Road and seven businesses on Chaney Drive. The Boardwalk at Johnson Park, the Peterson Lake Nature Center and the west baseball complex at St. George’s Independent School’s campus in Collierville dismissed about an hour early Thursday as the rising Wolf River swamped fields and approached campus buildings.

In Germantown, city engineers closed both outside lanes on Wolf River Boulevard west of Wolf River Circle, limiting traffic to one lane in each direction.

Water from the inlets is seeping into the lanes making them impassable and motorists are asked to avoid the area. Several parks, the Germantown Greenway and a walking trail loop were closed due to rising water.

On Bond in West Memphis, Jo Garner paused at her car parked as near to her sister’s flood- and wind-damaged house as the flooded street would allow.

Her 70-year-old sister, Pat Blankenship, has seen her home flooded six to eight times since Christmas 1987, Garner said.

Blankenship believed city pumps had solved the flooding problem after last year, Garner said.

Blankenship, who no longer has flood insurance, is in shock and is not likely to return to repair her mortgage-free home, Garner said.

“She’s tough and she’s strong, but there’s a limit,” Garner said.

– Kevin McKenzie: 529-2348

Reporters Lela Garlington and Cindy Wolff contributed to this story.

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