Liz Lochner-Abel flooding victim Walworth

Oak Knolls resident Liz Lochner-Abel discusses flooding Oct. 3 on her backyard deck, with the family’s swimming pool in the foreground, surrounded by floodwater that had at one point submerged the entire pool.

WALWORTH — As floodwaters receded in the Oak Knolls neighborhood, Olen and Barb Paulsen thought about removing the sandbags that had been protecting their home on Laurie Court.

Then the rain returned.

“We’re not going to be in any hurry to take them down,” Barb Paulsen said of the sandbags.

Inundated by mid-September flooding that left five feet of water in some basements, Oak Knolls residents are cleaning up their homes in the hope that the worst is over.

But with more heavy rain hitting the neighborhood during the first week of October, residents say their recovery is coming slowly — if at all.

Homeowner Paul Lauterbach said the most recent deluge has caused floodwater to seep back into his basement on Bennett Court, raising his level of frustration and desperation.

Without a dry basement, Lauterbach said, he cannot install a new furnace, even as chilly autumn temperatures are fast approaching.

“We can’t replace anything,” he said. “We’re still living day to day — we can’t move forward.”

Pat Grams flooding victim Walworth

Sitting in what was once a finished basement with carpeting, Oak Knolls resident Pat Grams shows Oct. 3 where he cut away the bottom 14 inches of drywall after flooding that also destroyed basement furnishings.

Located east of Big Foot High School, the Oak Knolls neighborhood has been troubled repeatedly by flooding over the years. Residents, however, say the problem has never been as severe as it was Sept. 13 and 14 after repeated downpours.

Walworth village officials declared an emergency, and volunteers from throughout the community headed to Oak Knolls to help manage the disaster.

Village officials have since agreed to consider infrastructure improvements aimed at better drainage for the Oak Knolls area.

For now, however, flood victims in the neighborhood are working to pick up the pieces and put their lives back together following devastating damage to their properties.

At his home on Laurie Court, homeowner Pat Grams has ripped up the soaked carpeting from his basement, thrown away furniture and other belongings, and removed damaged drywall.

Barb Paulsen flood victim Walworth Oak Knolls

Standing on her backyard deck, Barb Paulsen on Oct. 3 discusses the flooding that has troubled her Oak Knolls neighborhood in Walworth. 

Grams said he thought he was making progress in his cleanup efforts. But the latest rainstorm has caused floodwaters to creep back up toward his home.

As a precaution, he filled and placed about 35 more sandbags outside his basement.

“I’m still concerned,” he said. “It’s so waterlogged, and there’s no place for the water to go.”

The village has installed pumps to drain water from the neighborhood, although Lauterbach questioned whether the pumping is as effective as it could be. As his ordeal drags on, he said, he simply wants the floodwater removed.

“We’re very, very frustrated,” he said.

Flooding pumps Oak Knolls Walworth

Two hoses pump water furiously Oct. 3 on Ridge Road in Walworth to relieve flooding in the Oak Knolls neighborhood, although some residents question whether the pumping is adequate.  

A large trash dumpster stands in Lauterbach’s driveway, nearly filled with furnishings and materials that he has removed while gutting his damaged basement since mid-September.

Elsewhere, large piles of sand provided by the village remain in place with shovels, so that residents can make more sandbags if needed to safeguard themselves against new rainstorms.

Paulsen said although she and her husband have been spared any damage so far inside their Laurie Court home, they are aware of neighbors hit much harder.

“It’s a shame what people lost,” she said.

Liz Lochner-Abel, another homeowner on Bennett Court, said the flooding in mid-September left her backyard swimming pool and tool shed submerged. No water got inside the house, but the outdoor damage was extensive.

Sand and shovels Oak Knolls flooding Walworth

A large pile of sand with shovels are available Oct. 3 for residents in the Oak Knolls neighborhood of Walworth if they want to place more sandbags around their properties.

As the flooding receded, Lochner-Abel removed her sandbags and was starting to reassemble her finished basement. Then, the new downpours of early October sent the floodwaters rising again, leaving her to wonder if the worst was yet to come.

“It’s upsetting,” she said. “You just feel useless.”

Lochner-Abel has consulted a Farmer’s Almanac, and she is trying to remain optimistic that the flooding has ended.

Still, with more clouds moving through the neighborhood, she said: “I don’t know. What’s Mother Nature going to do? I guess we’re all holding our breath.”

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