Historic Devils Elbow was hit hard in the record breaking flood that hit Pulaski County last weekend, but its residents are determined to recover.
A walk through Devils Elbow reveals utter devastation in the aftermath of the record-breaking flood that hammered Pulaski County last weekend. Devils Elbow isn't gone, but it's definitely hurting, according to its residents.
The Daily Guide was on scene in Devils Elbow Sunday before the river breached the bridge and again on Tuesday afternoon after it, not only breached the bridge, but took several homes right off of their foundations and destroyed them.
The Daily Guide spoke with residents and business owners in Devils Elbow Wednesday afternoon finding that the spirit of the people isn't broken, most of them are determined to recover and even rebuild despite irreparable damage in some cases.
The iconic Elbow Inn reported that they had five feet of water in their building. Susan Denning Roberson, owner, told the Daily Guide they were going to have to "gut" the inside of the building.
Historic Sheldon's Market, home of the Devils Elbow post office, had water reaching the roof and residents were working diligently Tuesday to clean it out, shovel out the mud, and remove flood-damaged items from the structure.
Anne Williamson, a Devils Elbow resident, talked with the Daily Guide, in a video available on our website at www.waynesvilledailyguide.com, about the widespread destruction of her community and desperate need for the area to be declared a disaster area by the president.
Williamson said that the flooding was even more heart-breaking because some of the area had just been added to the National Historic Registry.
Devils Elbow residents showed up en masse to Thursday morning's Pulaski County Commission meeting to discuss the destruction of their homes and the next steps to take following the flooding.
County Surveyor Don Mayhew was present at the meeting to discuss inaccuracies with Pulaski County's flood plain maps, pointing to several Devils Elbow residents in attendance at the meeting as having followed recommendations based on those maps.
"They elevated their structure based on the maps that were available," Mayhew said.
In one case, one resident even went a couple of feet above the recommendation for elevation and that structure had several feet of water in it through this flood.
"We're either getting more rain or the maps are wrong," Mayhew said.
The maps Mayhew was referring to are maps of Pulaski County's flood plains and estimates of where major flooding will happen and how high the water will get. The maps are based on data Mayhew said he believes is inaccurate.
"We're seeing something that is exceeding what is considered a low probability event," Mayhew said in reference to the severe flooding that has been happening in the county in the last decade.
Western District Commissioner Ricky Zweerink pointed to an inability to dredge out rivers anymore as being part of the problem due to regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Natural Resources.
"We can't clean the gravel out of them... When the bathtub is full before you start, it's got to go somewhere," Zweerink said.
Devils Elbow residents at the meeting began telling the stories of what has happened to their homes. Resident Susan Nard said she was considering abandoning or demolishing hers. The Toula family lost their home, as it was one of the ones knocked loose from its foundation. The residents had many questions about FEMA and SEMA.
Residents were urged by Joe Krill to call congress members and senators, write letters, and encourage friends and family to do the same.
Devils Elbow residents asked if there was any local funds available to help and were told that Pulaski County Road and Bridge is "broke" by commissioners. Pulaski County has been trying to get reimbursement from FEMA for projects related to both the 2013 and 2015 floods.
Presiding Commissioner Gene Newkirk said that Road and Bridge started this year broke because they haven't received the money they had been promised.
The Daily Guide went and toured damage from previous floods with Zweerink Tuesday and learned that there are multiple projects in the county where there have been some serious issues with FEMA. We will be bringing our readers a more in-depth story on that issue next week.
Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler will be visiting Devils Elbow Monday morning at 9 a.m. to tour the damage and talk with the residents.