Flooding leads to evacuation in Hanceville

This image taken from video shows flooding in Hanceville Sunday evening.

HANCEVILLE — One of Hanceville’s most troublesome residential flooding spots may be on the path to rehabilitation, if the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approves a quarter-million dollar grant city leaders agreed to apply for on Thursday.

At its regular meeting, the Hanceville City Council unanimously approved the filing of a pre-disaster mitigation grant that, if funded, would help buy a piece of private property on the city’s east side, tear down the existing residence at the site, and replace it with a catchment basin system to help ease chronic flooding in the low-lying area.

For nearly two decades, the Brown family has dealt with periodic flooding at their home on the property, which is located at the intersection of Edward Street and East Railroad Avenue. The last flood, which occurred on June 9 of this year, inundated their single-story home in more than two feet of water, trapping and drowning one of their pets — a dachsund named Mutt — inside the house.

Homeowner Lynda Brown said there have been at least four major floods since she and her disabled daughter, Amanda, first moved into the house — a Habitat for Humanity home built with wheelchair accessibility for Amanda in mind.

“The first one was in 2002, and this past one, in June, was the worst by far,” said Brown. “We had 29 inches of water. We have a big culvert in the area that’s concrete-lined, and it collects very rapidly when it rains steadily and hard. We’re already in a little bit of a valley, and when the water reaches the top of that culvert, it has nowhere else to go. It’s really a perfect storm of circumstances for us, and we’re hoping that this [grant process] will give us some hope.”

City workers have been responsive to the threat of eminent floods, said Brown, citing public works employees’ quick responses at the scene with sand bags whenever the water levels rise. But when nature has its mind made up, she added, there’s only so much the city can do.

“They’ve always tried their best, and they’ve been as helpful as they can be — and we’re grateful for it,” she said. “But I just have no faith that there is an actual long-term answer for a house on that property. We greatly appreciate the city council voting for this grant, because at least we have some hope for the future of breaking this cycle.”

If approved, the grant will obligate the City of Hanceville to front 25 percent of the purchase price of the Browns’ property, with FEMA picking up the remaining 75 percent. The rest of the approximately $260,000 grant would be used to demolish the house, and construct a basin and valve-release system in its place.

“We’ve lost sentimental things in the floods; things that can’t be replaced,” said Brown. “I look at this as our only chance to get away from that piece of land and have a better life. We know that there’s no guarantee that this grant will be approved. But whatever happens, I have every confidence that God will work it out for us to be in a better place — literally.”

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