The back yard of Willie Cranberry’s Ohio Street home looks like it’s ready for a garage sale.
Quilts and comforters hang on the clothesline. Boxes, vacuum cleaners, a computer and TV set are among the items sprawled over his backyard. But this isn’t the beginning of a rummage sale. Instead, it’s a salvage hunt for the retired state police officer. Cranberry, along with many of his neighbors, are picking up the pieces – literally – following the July 23 torrential rainstorm.
Home basements were flooded and household items stored there were all but destroyed.
“It was real bad,” said Cranberry, who’s lived at the home for more than 30 years with his wife. “I had water up past my knee. There was four feet of water in my basement, where I store my stuff in there. The dryer, washer, freezer and all the clothes I had stored down in the basement. And it was ruined. Everything was ruined.”
Very little is salvageable, and Cranberry was forced to throw out many items. Cranberry said that even his packed freezer was floating on water. The basement of his bungalow home is still filled with many items, including clothes hanging up, furniture and boxes. All of it, Cranberry said, has to be moved out.
Flood victims are being encouraged to compile a detailed list with photos of damage they incurred. Flood assessment forms are available at the aldermen’s offices. The forms need to be turned in by Friday Aug. 6. Cook County Comm. Earlene Collins (1st), assessed some of the damage in the community herself this week. Her office, 5943 W. Madison, will also have forms that residents can later drop off.
“They should take pictures, and if they have a video camera, record it; even if they have to use their cell phones,” Collins said.
The commissioner said the city will use the information to try and secure federal reimbursement money from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to aid victims.
“It’s so critical that people fill out those forms and take pictures of the damage,” Collins said. “They’re not going to take your word. You have to have some visual proof of the damage. A lot of people don’t know to do that.”
The South Austin Coalition Community Council, 5660 W. Madison, will have flood damage forms for pick-up and drop-off. Bob Vondrasek, SACCC’s executive director, said some of the group’s senior members also experienced flood damage. The community council started fielding calls by Saturday.
“A lot of people still don’t know what’s going on,” Vondrasek said concerning help available for victims.
He and other SACCC members have been out in the community since the weekend, including on the 4700 block of Ohio with Cranberry and his neighbors. Dorothy Adams, a block club leader on Ohio, had basement flooding. She mainly used that area for storage. Adams has been out passing out flood damage forms to neighbors; she had a stack with her on Tuesday while touring Cranberry’s scattered backyard.
“We started calling  Saturday, but people really started up on Monday, all around this area,” she said.
Neighbors helping neighbors
The city sent out dump trucks on Monday to pick up damaged and discarded items. While waiting for more help from the city and the federal government, the neighbors on Ohio have been helping one another. Adams said they’ve also been helping neighbors on the other blocks in the area.
After the storm, Cranberry spent about two hours fixing Sadie Strong’s water heater. She’s lived on Ohio for more than 20 years. Strong has been using her cell phone camera to snap photos of her property damage. Strong even lost recently-purchased items that were still in boxes.
“Normally sometimes when it floods the water would never come up toward the front. It would always stay toward the middle of the basement or toward the back. This time it was all the way up toward the front. Everything that was salvageable had to be thrown out.”
Lorine Ross has lived on Ohio Street for five years. She said everything in her basement will have to be discarded. Ross also lost two litters of puppies – nine and three by her two dogs, Paige and Lady – during her basement flooding.
“I hadn’t had a chance to name them; they were only two weeks old,” she said. “I’m really distraught about that. And [Paige] hasn’t stopped crying because that was her first litter.”
Adams said the best way for everyone to get threw the storm’s aftermath is to work together.
“Organize, get together and help each other,” she said. “Whatever information you have, pass it along to the next person. That’s the only way we’re going to make it work.”