Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 19, 2013

Flood victims seek shelter

Many searched all morning for a place to take their pets.

By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer

— Kathy Elrod curled up on a cot at Memorial Gymnasium late Friday afternoon wrapped in a heavy fleece blanket and wearing the dry T-shirt and pants a Red Cross volunteer gave her.

She was still cold.

Just hours earlier, firefighters rescued her from her Washington Street home.

By the time they arrived, floodwaters were spilling onto her bed and carrying some of her furniture away, she said.

“Everything was wet,” she said. “The water was cold.”

She was in her nightgown and house coat and soaked when rescuers arrived at her door. She had just enough time to grab her pocketbook and diabetes medication before they took her away.

Elrod ended up at the Red Cross emergency evacuation shelter in Memorial Gym downtown along with about a dozen others who were settling in for the night.

Friday morning, though, many displaced Kokomo residents scrambled to find places for their pets to stay for the evening. While people could seek refuge in the Red Cross shelter, animals couldn’t.

Carol Knolinski showed up at the shelter with her toy poodle, Ozzie.

Red Cross officials said the dog couldn’t stay there, but they did help Knolinski look for a place to take him.

But the Humane Society wasn’t accepting pets, and many area boarders were either out of space or required documentation that people didn’t think to grab before they rushed out of their homes.

Knolinski breathed a sigh of relief when the Red Cross found a groomer in West Middleton who would board her dog for $6 a night.

“Ozzie can’t stay outside,” Knolinski said. “It’s too cold.”

There was no way he could have stayed in the home, either. When Knolinski and her husband left the house early Friday, water had already spilled into their heating ducts, and the furnace had shut off.

The water was rising quickly, too, she said. In two hours, the water rose eight inches.

Mother Nature dumped more than four inches of rain on an already saturated Kokomo area Thursday and Friday causing the Wildcat Creek to reach record levels and pour over its banks.

According to the City of Kokomo, the water was 18.34 feet above the base of the Wildcat Creek Friday afternoon — the highest recorded since a creek stream gauge was installed in 1950.

Howard County Commissioners issued a state of emergency by 4:30 p.m. — after firefighters and community volunteers spent the day rescuing more than 100 people from their flooded homes.

Phylicia Young was going to stay in her Park Avenue home for the day.

Her yard had disappeared. Water completely filled her basement, but it hadn’t reached her living spaces yet.

Firefighters dropped in on her and her two young sons, though, and urged the trio to come with them.

“They said it was going to keep rising, and they wouldn’t be back for two or three hours,” she said.

Young decided it was best to get her family out of the house. There was no time to pack, though. Rescuers wanted to leave immediately.

She had her 6-year-old quickly pack a bag for himself, and she packed supplies for her 6-month-old.

But when she arrived at the temporary shelter on Walnut Street, she realized that her oldest didn’t have socks, and she had forgotten bottles for her youngest.

She smiled and remained optimistic, though.

“I’m from Chicago, so I’ve never experienced this before,” she said. “It’s scary and exciting.”

Her 6-year-old was excited to get his first ride in a raft when rescuers floated to the front of their home. He also got his very first ride in a fire truck, she said.

Even as they day wore on, Jaheir played with toy trucks and balls without a complaint.

Young sat on a cot next to her sleeping baby and watched Jaheir.

She let out a long breath.

She was at her second shelter of the day, and she was finally realizing the magnitude of what happened.

Young thought about all the stuff she had left behind in her home. There was a laptop sitting on the living room floor. She wondered aloud if it would still work when she returned.

“This is too much,” she said. “I miss my family.”