Mary Beth Ingram and her sister, Julie Ingram, woke up Wednesday morning to the recurring nightmare of their house flooding yet again.
The Ingrams built their house, located at the corner of Mulkey and Westmoreland north of Waxahachie in 2003. Since then, they have been caught up in a quagmire that they say includes a lack of response by officials, sparring insurance companies and a legal system that yielded less than satisfactory results.
Since its construction, the rural Waxahachie homeowners’ dream home has flooded five times, three times this year alone: March 30, June 30 and Sept. 5.
The 2,400 square feet home serves as their residence, the site for Julie’s home-based businesses as well as a home-school base for one of Mary Beth’s sons.
“It’s not just our home that’s been flooded. It’s our business, it’s where I homeschool my son,” Mary Beth said in an interview Wednesday afternoon at her flooded residence.
Piles of ripped out carpet sat out front and fans were going inside the home. Workers milled about and the American Red Cross was on hand to assist.
The Ingrams said they are most appreciative of the Red Cross.
“They’re the only ones out of everyone I’ve mentioned that have helped us,” said Mary Beth, who listed numerous people and agencies she has tried to get help from. “They’ve always helped.”
She said they’re worried about mold and the sheet rock will have to be ripped out up to about 4 feet from the floor. Mary Beth also pointed to several large cracks that continue to spread through the home’s slab and said a contractor has told them the east side of their home is at least an inch lower than the west side due to the shifting.
Their homeowner’s policy has told them it won’t pay for the slab, saying the cracks were caused by the flooding. Their flood insurance has told them it won’t pay because it can’t be proved the flooding caused the slab damage.
The Ingrams said they had just finished remodeling from the June flood when Wednesday’s flooding hit.
Pct. 4 County Commissioner Ron Brown said the property receives water from about 60 acres of farm land.
“This was all farmland at one time,” he said. “It was all terraced and as houses started being built, those terraces started going away and it’s getting more water.”
Brown said the county has done what it can along the lines of putting in culverts and clearing ditches on its right-of-way. As far as telling property owners what they can do on their property, he said the only authority the county has is over culvert size and septic tanks. The county has no authority over construction on a piece of property unless it’s in a flood plain.
An the Ingram property is not in a flood plain, which is determined by proximity to a body of water.
“I feel sorry for her, I feel very sorry for her. She’s in a no-win situation,” he said. “We are trying to get her some help with FEMA.”
There are several other homeowners in the county who are facing similar situations of repeated flooding, he said, noting the county also is trying to help them through FEMA.
The Ingrams say they have found only dead ends in trying to get help.
They sued the homebuilder, but the $25,000 settlement went toward legal fees and a suit against the developer. That suit ended when they ran out of money to continue the fight, they said, saying the developer has since left the area.
The county has told them it can’t do anything on their private property, they said, saying they feel the county’s efforts with the nearby ditches and culverts simply haven’t been enough.
They’ve asked their insurance companies to buy them out, but have been told that’s not an option.
“They said they’ll pay (damages) 50 times if that’s what it takes,” Julie said, saying there’s “no logic” to insurance.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” she said. “They keep paying, we keep fixing, it keeps flooding. Thank God, we have insurance though.”
They’re hoping for a FEMA grant, but won’t know until October.
Their biggest disappointment is that nobody told them the property flooded in heavy rains.
“We checked the county’s records and nothing was in there about the flooding,” Mary Beth said, saying the records should show if a property floods, regardless of whether or not it is in a flood plain, which is determined by proximity to a body of water.
“There is no way we would have built here if we had known or been told this property flooded,” she said. “Why didn’t anyone tell us before we built here?”
The Ingrams have ditches on two sides of their property and have dug a moat closer to their home on the two other sides in an effort to route the water away from their home.
Julie said that, despite their efforts to route the water away, it only comes back to them when the ditches and culverts below them back up because the water can’t move out quick enough.
“All they (the county) can say is, ‘I’m so sorry, but there’s nothing we can do,’ ” she said.
The two are asking for contacts, information, anything to help alleviate their situation.
A primary concern for Julie is her sister’s health. Mary Beth was diagnosed two years ago with multiple myeloma, which is an incurable form of cancer that possibly has a environmental cause.
Did the repeated flooding and damage to their home cause her cancer? Mary Beth said she doesn’t know, but she’s facing chemotherapy treatment for the rest of her life and a possible bone marrow or stem cell transplant.
“I don’t know how she does it,” Julie said of her sister’s fight to go on with her life despite the obstacles they’re facing.
Mary Beth acknowledges the stress doesn’t help her illness.
“My numbers are higher than they’ve ever been right now,” she said, saying she’s due to restart her chemotherapy but says the treatments may have to be postponed while she deals with their housing situation.
“We don’t want a handout, but we do want some help,” Julie said. “We want to know what we can do. I just want someone who’s out there to tell me who can help us.”
E-mail JoAnn at firstname.lastname@example.org