Some In Northfield Consider Moving On After Flood

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(Host)  Over the past week many neighbors have pulled together to recover from the flooding. But the flood could also pull neighborhoods apart.

As VPR’s Steve Zind discovered in one hard-hit area of Northfield, some people are considering leaving their homes rather than staying.

(bucket loader) 

(Zind) Water Street in Northfield was lined with heaps of ruined appliances and bedding, mixed with sheetrock and flooring ripped out of the damaged houses, Monday.  Scores of volunteers including students from Norwich University trouped up and down the street pitching in.  

About 30 houses in this neighborhood were seriously damaged by Irene.    

(Wilson)  "The water came up to here.  About 3 12/ feet."

(Zind) Since being evacuated more than a week ago, Jim Wilson and his wife have been living in a motel, tapping into their savings.

(Wilson) "And that’s tough, because we’re getting low real quick.  We were hoping to see the insurance company sooner than this.  They promised 48 hours and here we are over a week and they haven’t arrived. Now, if you want to take a look in the cellar."

(Zind)  Much of the mud that washed into Wilson’s cellar has been shoveled out by volunteers but the air there is still heavy and damp. 

Wilson says his wife has a respiratory condition and whether or not they can return to home depends on how much mold and mildew there is.

Down the street, Mike Pemberton has already made his decision.  After 33 years and three floods, he’s had enough.  He’ll try to sell his damaged house as is.

(Pemberton) "We’re ready to move on and start our lives again. Our daughter got married last year and her husband got deployed.  He’s in Afghanistan; she’s pregnant with their first child.  We brought her home from Tennessee just to be with her and raise a child.  Now what do we do?"

(Zind)  Pemberton says he knows his family will make it through this, but it won’t be in this neighborhood. 

Up the street Marie Clough sits outside the home where she’s lived for 37 years.  Her hands droop at her sides as she gazes at a pile of ruined belongings. Despite the setback, she’s staying.

(Clough)  "I know its going to be ok.  It just doesn’t look that way right now."

(Zind)  Across the street a couple of volunteers are asking Homer Smith how much mud is in his basement.  He says its hard to tell, since he has a dirt floor, but he knows there’s not as much cellar as there used to be.

(Smith) "I hit my head more often." (laughter)

(Zind)  Smith is staying with friends for the time being.  This is the house where he grew up and he plans to move back in.  But many of the more than 50 years of accumulated family possessions are gone. 

(Smith) "I’m going to have to come back here eventually and I’ve got nothing left."

(Zind)  Another neighbor is John Lepore.  He says his house isn’t damaged enough to be declared a total loss and it wasn’t insured enough for the coverage to pay for the damage.

(Lepore) "The foundation is still intact, so unfortunately I’m stuck with the house." (laughs)

(Zind)  Lepore and others in this Northfield neighborhood are hoping in coming days federal officials and insurance companies will give them a clearer idea of how much financial help they’ll get. 

For some, that may make the difference between whether they stay or leave.

For VPR news, I’m Steve Zind in Northfield.

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