St. Martin residents say flooding caused by negligence

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - It was a mixed bag of emotions on Anderson Drive Sunday, as residents cleaned up what's left of their lives. Many of them lost all of their belongings to Saturday's flood waters.

"It's all trash," said Binnaz Bradley.  "All the furniture's gone, most of the electronics are gone."

Jessica Kerr, who lives across the street, also lost everything.

"There's no way you can get over this," she said with tears welling her eyes. "There's just no way."

The sadness gave way to anger. They blame more than rain for their devastation, and believe much of their flooding could have been prevented.

"This is a drainage ditch," Bradley said, pointing to a grown over section of her back yard.  "This is not a natural body of water.  It should be running through here or at least drained, and it's just standing water."

Limbs, dirt, and even trash cans lined the inside of the ditch, but it wasn't clear how much of it was there before Saturday's flooding.  For many neighbors, like Yvette Acevevo who lives down the street, it was.

"It's easy to see," Yvette Acevevo said.  "These houses by these ditches got flooded. We didn't get flooded during Hurricane Katrina. We're not in a flood zone."

Residents say they've called the Jackson County road department countless times about the drainage ditch they say is clogged, but they say nothing has been done to fix it.  District 4 Supervisor Tommy Brodnax says that's just not true.

"That drainage ditch has been cleaned," Brodnax said.  "It was cleaned last fall."

Brodnax said he personally oversaw the cleaning only a few months ago.  He said it's almost impossible to prevent flooding in such heavy rain, on any street.  He added that roads all over the county were still covered in water as of Sunday afternoon.  He said it would be difficult to say whether the drainage system played a role in the flooding, and even more difficult to say how much.

When asked whether county negligence was a factor in the drainage system's flaws, Brodnax said, "It probably is to a certain degree."

He said although its been hard to get funding, a project is in the works for permanent improvements to the drainage system in the area.

"Anything that we can do to improve the situation, we're going to do it with this new design," he said.

For this neighborhood, no matter who is to blame, the damage is done.

"My insurance is not going to cover all this," said Acevevo.  "I have two children.  I can't live in this house like this."

"Whoever's in charge of it, I hope you come out here," said Kerr.  "And I hope you see it and I hope you look around, and I hope you feel remorseful."

Brodnax said he visited the neighborhood Sunday afternoon to take a look for himself.  He also said the ditch would be cleared Monday in advance of Tuesday's forecasted rain.

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