Saturday, March 8, 1997
After-the-flood advice
Accept help and be patient,
says a woman who lost everything
when the Whitewater River
overflowed in 1996

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Leland and Billien McCowan felt humiliation.

Last April, they lost nearly everything they owned when the rain-swollen Whitewater River flooded their $75,000 home near New Trenton, Ind.

''Get over the embarrassment quick'' is Mrs. McCowan's advice to families facing the same situation now.

''The biggest thing you've got to do is spread the word,'' she says. ''Nobody can help you if they don't know you need help.''

A flood victim who told her story to The Enquirer in April and again in October, Mrs. McCowan shared her recovery tips earlier this week.

There's no coping formula, says Mrs. McCowan, 28, who has moved with her husband and young son to a new home on higher ground in Harrison.

Nevertheless, she suggests:


''You're going to need the basics - toothbrushes, clothes,'' she says. ''Get to the emergency shelter. . . . Register with the Red Cross. Talk to your church.''

Accept help.

''We're used to giving, and it's a lot harder to receive, but you have to because you have nothing,'' says Mrs. McCowan, a division technical expert with Ford Consumer Finance in Blue Ash. Leland McCowan, 29, is a forklift mechanic for Portman Material Handling in Blue Ash.

Patience is a virtue.

The McCowans left their home April 29. The insurance adjuster couldn't visit until May 10.

''It is going to take months to rebuild,'' Mrs. McCowan says. ''Nobody is willing to move as fast as you.''

Let it go.

Thirty-six hours after they fled their home, the McCowans returned to survey the damage. Their immediate impulse was to salvage as much as possible.

''Our doctor and some people with the Red Cross reminded us of the disease and waste that was in the water,'' Mrs. McCowan says.

''It wasn't like our stuff was just wet. They told us to completely wash ourselves, change clothes and scrub under our fingernails after we were at the house.''

They saved a little more than a third of their clothing. They washed what they could at a coin laundry. Then they took their clothing to a professional cleaner, which gave them a 25 percent discount because of the flood.

Mr. McCowan salvaged the couple's 3-year-old television. He removed the back panel and picture tube, power-washed it and set it in the sun for three days. It still works.

They were going to try to save their refrigerator but were advised against attempting to keep any large appliances.

Water damaged the fringes of their wedding pictures. Mrs. McCowan carefully peeled photos from the album and let them air dry. Some colors bled. Older family photos were smeared beyond recognition.