A year after floodwater swamped the Tri-State, one woman has recovered and her business is thriving, while another is still suffering through her year of anguish.
The rain shut down Nancy Hasting's greenhouse business for three weeks, but the mild winter worked in her favor and she's seen this strong sales this year.
Last year, the Tri-State received 11.77 inches of rain in April and eight in May.
Thousands of sandbags and volunteer hours were needed in the stretch between April 22 and May 2 to protect communities throughout the region from the rising waters of Pigeon Creek and Ohio River. The Ohio crested at 46.37 feet in Evansville, more than four feet above the city's flood stage.
The water stopped a foot and a half shy of the doorstep of Hasting Plants in Mount Vernon, which rests on land between the Ohio and Wabash rivers. However, the flooding created a virtual island around her sales building, home and four greenhouses. Her overall sales in 2011 were down 30 percent, because of the three weeks, right in the heart of her busiest time of year, that her shop was surrounded by more than two feet of water.
"Every day you would think it can't get worse and it did," said Hasting, who has operated the greenhouse for 30 years. "It almost seemed biblical at one point."
It's also been a year since heavy rain ravaged the home of Virginia Linton, 84, and her late husband Sib, 85. Life since then, as she bluntly put it, has been "terrible."
Nearly 23 inches of water crept into the lower level of the Lintons' tri-level house on Torry Lane near Pigeon Creek. Water remained for more than two weeks and it required five machines running for a week to kill the mold left behind. New walls, ceiling, carpet, bathroom fixtures, cabinets, tile flooring, plumbing and furnace were among the needed repairs. Only about a third of the work is complete.
Problems with the construction company hired by the Lintons' homeowner's insurance has halted work on the house. Linton declined to discuss details of the trouble.
But a sodden basement and difficulties with the construction company would become the least of Linton's worries. After years of battling complications from the virulent staph infection MRSA, Sib Linton died March 3. Even when her husband was alive, he was too ill to understand the issues that arose from the flood. And with him gone, she now realizes the responsibility rests on her shoulders.
"I haven't been able to do anything," she said. "It's been such a mess with my husband passing, I'm overwhelmed."
The Lintons' home was one of more than 500 structures in Vanderburgh County covered by National Flood Insurance administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Each year, the Lintons paid $1,200 for the insurance on the home they lived in for 47 years.
With Sib gone, Virginia will collect a little over $1,000 through veteran's spousal retirement insurance once she is approved. Sib was a World War II vet who served in the Naval Air Corps in the South Pacific. The home also is on a reverse mortgage, which requires it be maintained in its original condition and it covers the mortgage payment. With repairs on the home still needed, including a $12,000 roof replacement, and very little money coming in, Virginia said she might have to move into a more affordable home.
"It's just been a total messed up mess through the whole thing," she said
The two-week period of heavy rain contributed to 2011 being the wettest year in Evansville's history with an annual precipitation of 70.3 inches, surpassing the 2006 record of 66.18 inches. Last year also set a record with 10 days accumulating at least two inches of rain. A state of emergency was declared for Vanderburgh County on April 27 and for Newburgh on April 28, along with six other Indiana counties. State of emergencies were declared in Kentucky and Illinois and both received federal aid. Indiana was denied FEMA aid and denied again upon appeal.
The flood was the Tri-State's third-worst, falling behind the flood of 1913 and the "Great Flood of 1937," which caused $4.2 billion damage in today's value and left 700,000 homeless across 13,000 square miles from Point Pleasant W. Va., to Cairo, Ill.
Hasting began to notice the rising water the last week of April but she thought it would "barely cross the road" and her business would be out "maybe just a couple of days."
"Every morning we would come out and gauge the water level," she said. "At first we used the mailbox by the end of the driveway and it eventually covered it so we switched to yardsticks and soon enough they weren't long enough."
Water levels surrounding Hasting's property rose rapidly, around two to three feet a day for three days at one point, she said. Toward the end of the flooding, the Hastings threw concrete blocks in the driveway to mark the height of the water. Hasting ran a blog and kept customers informed daily of the flood condition. When floodwater receded in late May, Hasting had to sell her plants at a discount to recoup lost business.
Business bounced back, however, with the blessing of an early spring this year and a loyal customer base established over three decades. Sales rocketed in March and have maintained a steady level, Hasting said.
"Oh my, you can't even compare this year to last year," she said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Linton visited with relatives from Bloomington, Ind., reminiscing of the early days of her and Sib's relationship. She shared a bittersweet tale of running the family business and traveling with him around the country trap shooting.
"I'm a very good shot," she boasted.
Virginia and Sib Linton met at a Roller Rink at Burdette Park and were married soon after he returned from the war in 1946. They have two daughters. For 47 years, the couple ran Sib's Marine Land but went out of business after filing bankruptcy.
For now, Linton is working with family members to resolve issues with the restoration of her home. Friends and family keep her company from time to time but she mainly finds companionship with her three cats: Ike, Fred and Ginger.
"I don't know what I would do without them," she said.