Sunday, July 22, 2001

Mobile-home residents feel fortunate to be alive

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LIBERTY TOWNSHIP — A bundle of Christmas tree lights lay in a green plastic container on Mary Hunkler's mud-caked driveway.

        They were one of the few Christmas decorations she was able to salvage from the flooding waters of nearby Gregory Creek that early Wednesday devastated the mobile home park in which she lives.

        “I decorate for each of the holidays and seasons,” Ms. Hunkler said as she watched a Liberty Township firetruck spray water over the mud-coated street. “I lost my Christmas tree and Halloween decorations.”

        The floodwaters overnight Tuesday damaged 32 of the 42 mobile homes in Gregory Creek Mobile Home Park at Hamilton-Mason and Mauds Hughes roads in Butler County.

        Water knocked one home off its foundation, destroyed property in the homes and sheds, damaged cars and air conditioners, ripped away the vinyl skirting around the bottoms of the homes and ruined insulation.

        No one was seriously hurt. As they cleaned up the mess left by the flood, many residents said they felt fortunate to be alive.

        During the flood, Arnold Couch, 83, and his 80-year-old wife, Geneva, were standing in chest-high water in the street before their son, Jimmy Couch, who lives next door, and others rescued them.

        “It was lucky nobody drowned here,” Arnold Couch said.

        The flood cost Jimmy Couch his pickup truck, a riding lawn mower, and other tools and equipment. But he cared only that his parents and his wife and 2-year-old daughter escaped unharmed.


Insurance woes
Both Couch families have flood insurance. But some of the mobile-home park residents don't.

        Kristie Carte, 25, is one of them. She has lived in her home only since May. The flood damaged her car and ruined her home's vinyl skirting and insulation.

        She figures the total bill will be about $5,000.

        “The water came an inch from going in my home,” Miss Carte said. “The inside stinks. Dad's trying to fix my air conditioner. My air-conditioner ducts are full of water.”

        Margery Shelley, 64, has always taken pride in her flower garden, but the flood washed it away.

        “It used to be over here, and I had a little tree over there,” she said, pointing to a swampy area in her back yard.

        Emily Newell saw the floodwaters lift her station wagon off the ground and turn it around. The station wagon isn't worth fixing, she said.

        But the 75-year-old woman said she would have felt a lot worse if something had happened to her cat, Honey.

        As Mrs. Newell's son, Jonathan, carried the cat out of the mobile home during the flood, she jumped from his arms onto the porch. They had to leave her.

        “When we came back the next day, the cat was still here,” Mrs. Newell said. “I don't know what she did, but she survived.”


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