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A lack of insurance is forcing Jack Fairclough to do most of his own repairs after his house was damaged by flooding in March.
[Times photo: Toni L. Sandys]

Flooding still seeps into emotions


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 8, 1998

HUDSON -- Jack Fairclough lost all of his toes to frostbite in the Korean War. A recent run-in with throat cancer robbed him of the ability to swallow.

As he balances on a ladder in his flood-damaged home, the feeding tube in his abdomen is leaking.

"I won't sit still," says Fairclough, 65, yanking nails from a high wall in what used to serve as his living room at 10031 West Road before March floods turned it into a pond. "You can't get anybody (to help), not unless you pay $100 an hour."

The flooding that drove numerous Pasco residents from their homes is mostly gone -- pumped away, evaporated by the sun, absorbed into the earth -- but its retreat has left behind financial and personal grief.

Some of the lucky ones, the ones with flood insurance, have received checks to help with rebuilding expenses. Others remain in limbo, waiting to see if their homes will be salvageable.

For people like Jack Fairclough and his wife, Gloria, who did not see the need to take out insurance, the situation bears a sharper indignity.

The Faircloughs' retirement will be spent paying back the $83,900 small business loan they took out for repairs on the home they have occupied for 20 years. After a lifetime of work, says Mrs. Fairclough, 62, they had hoped for "a better deal."

"By the time we pay off the business loan, I'll be 92 and my husband will be 95," she says. "Not something to look forward to."

The couple is staying temporarily at a rented house in New Port Richey. By day, they do what they can to save the West Road home, which is in the Frierson Lake area.

The nearly 10 inches of water that ousted them is gone from their home, though an enormous pool of water still lurks about 100 feet from their back yard. They call it Fairclough Lake.

Inside, the carpet has been yanked out and bare studs stand where walls used to be. "We kept it as a showplace," says Mrs. Fairclough, but now "you can stand in one room and see the whole house."

Jack Fairclough expects to do most of the work himself. Though he lost the front of both feet at the Chosin Reservoir in Korea, the Army veteran has special shoes that permit him to stand as he wields the hammer and crowbar against what remains of the dry wall.

Though Fairclough goes about it stoically, his wife says the ordeal has left him depressed. "He has no toes," she says. "He can't eat. He can't drink. The house is all he has." The exertion probably isn't good for him, but "you can't make him sit still."

Along with the Frierson Lake area several other areas, including Little Pete Court in Hudson and Wire Road in Zephyrhills, retain large pools of water.

At the home of Marc and Meredith Genton at 8648 Wire Road, the yard is still underwater, and the carpet still saturated. Marc Genton says they acquired insurance on March 25, only four days before the floods overwhelmed their jerry-built dike and filled their home with 2 feet of water.

They are staying with relatives nearby. Though they raised their children at the Wire Road house, Genton says they hope insurance officials declare it a total loss so they can start again "where it's high and dry."

Fumi Doi, 26, who runs Silver Oaks Golf and County Club in Zephyrhills, says the course is still being pumped of water, with five of the 18 holes underwater. He expects the course, which has been closed for about two months, to reopen in two to three weeks.

"It's basically closed, but we let people come in if they want to," Doi says.

Michele Baker, the county director of disaster preparedness, estimates Pasco has spent about $4.5-million so far on flood-related efforts, including pumps and road repairs. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to reimburse the county for most of that money, she says.

With the rainy season beginning in July, Baker recommends everyone in Pasco acquire flood insurance.

"If you don't have insurance, although there are many agencies and many grants there to help, there is none that will provide 100 percent of what it takes to put your life together again," she says. "We could be back into a disaster situation very quickly" if the rainy season unleashes large downpours.

The Faircloughs, and others like them, are still focused on salvaging what they can from the current crisis. Watching her husband work, Gloria Fairclough tries hard to maintain a smile.

"I want to cry so bad, but if I did, I wouldn't stop," she says. "Just let somebody know it's bad, not being in your home."

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