- Associated Press - Sunday, April 20, 2014

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - Getting back to normal hasn’t been easy for many families affected by flooding of the Wildcat Creek one year ago.

In all, 359 properties in Howard County were damaged. In Kokomo alone, the city estimates the raging waters caused some $12 million in damages to homes and businesses located in the creek’s flood plain.

The flood was the first of three weather events that brought unexpected costs to the community, one that was not eased by federal disaster dollars and few state funds, The Kokomo Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1rbjqN6 ). In a community lashed by abnormal weather, the financial costs have been high. The city claims it is still owed more than $134,000 in state disaster relief funding that was to be reimbursed by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security for costs incurred during the flood cleanup.

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said the city simply used its own funds in the cleanup effort, but said the costs of natural disasters have taken a bite out of the budget.

“At this point we have not gotten any of the money,” he said. “Between the flood, the tornadoes and the extremely tough winter weather, it’s been tough on the city budget. We’ll persevere, and I don’t want to spend a lot of time complaining about it, but it’s been difficult.”

IDHS Senior Public Information Officer John Erickson said he has communicated with Goodnight and that the appropriate paperwork is in the mail and will be reviewed in the coming weeks.

“It’s my understanding that it’s on its way to us. We appreciate the city’s attention to detail, because this process can take some time,” Erickson said. “I would say it will probably get taken care of in the shorter term, but can’t commit to a date on (when the funds will be reimbursed).”

For residents affected by the flood, finding new housing or making repairs created an unexpected burden.

That burden has been eased for some by community donations and SBA Disaster Loans through the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, which loaned $1.06 million to help 19 homeowners whose properties were damaged or destroyed in Howard County.

In the area, transformed now and nearly unrecognizable, much of the cleanup and recovery efforts have been completed.

In the wake of the flood, volunteers and nonprofit organizations began to assemble a Long Term Recovery Team. The team has provided victims with everything from funding for home repairs to assistance with cleanups to help with big purchases and fixes like furnace replacement.

In the days following the flood, Kokomo Urban Outreach organized a warehouse on East Monroe Street where victims could pick up necessities.

“We ran into people that lost their bedding and clothing,” Kokomo Urban Outreach Executive Director and recovery team case worker Jeff Newton said. “On Monday (following the flood) we said we’d open a warehouse. There were 123 families that came through the warehouse.”

Newton teamed up with Bridges Outreach Chief Professional Officer Travis Taflinger, Kokomo Rescue Mission Executive Director Van Taylor and a host of volunteers to organize the grassroots effort that helped many families mop up while providing them with necessities. The team has remained active, though casework is slowing down for flood victims, as the group works to renovate its final home.

“We actually went door to door four times and let people know there was help available,” Newton said. “We had the casework done by the end of May. (Volunteer) cleanup groups started coming in from June through August to do some of the repairs and other work that had to be done. In the fall we had issues with furnaces that wouldn’t fire up, so we helped them with the replacement of those.”

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