KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Monday morning, Jeanne Kendall walked up and down the Lakewood neighborhood, checking out the standing water along Lamont Street and Willow Boulevard. She was worried that it would rise and flood her home, she said. By Thursday morning her fears came true.
“What do you do? What do you do? I cry all the time,” she said with tears in her eyes and pointing to her grandson. “He keeps telling me to stop. How do you stop crying? How do you stop?”
Jeanne’s young grandson played in the front porch of her home, seeing if his toy face mask could float in the water. Jeanne stood in the flood and cried. There’s two feet of water outside her house, she said, and over a foot inside. She spent the day cleaning up what she could and ran two pumps inside.
“I can’t give up. I want to, especially now," Jeanne said, her voice cracking. "This is the third time we been hit in a year.”
Back in February, when the Kalamazoo River reached record levels, it caused widespread flooding throughout the city including Jeanne’s neighborhood. The water topped 11-feet outside of her home and it damaged everything inside. She just finished spending $7,000-$9,000 repairing everything from the floors to the carpeting to the drywall, thanks in part to a GoFundMe page.
“I don’t have the money to do it again,” she said crying. “I don’t have the heart left to do it. I do all the cleaning in there. I’ve got a bad back. I’ve got a bad hip. I’ve got a bad hand.”
However, Jeanne does it anyway. She said it’s her only option. She’s been asked from time to time why won’t she move considering she lives in a flood zone. But she said it isn’t that simple.
“It is our family’s home,” Jeanne said. “It isn’t much, but it's paid for. All we have to pay is our property taxes and our bills. I can’t afford a mortgage payment.”
She and her husband are on disability and he can’t move around, she said. He had a heart attack and has stents in his heart. Lifting 50 pound sandbags is out of the question she said.
“I been helping her put sandbags around all day [Wednesday],” said William McKay who’s been friends with Jeanne for the 15 years. “[I] been helping them work on the house since the last flood. [We] just about there. Now all the work seems like a waste of time.”
As soon McKay arrived this morning, he put garage bins at the intersection of Lamont Street and Willow Blvd to block cars from driving through, he said. However a few vehicles drove around them and onto people's yards to get to the other side.
“Some of them go like crazy and it creates an incredible wake,” he said. “It rolls right into the house and it makes things terrible. It makes it 10 times worse than what it had to be.”
McKay stayed with Jeanne most of the day to continue helping in any way he could. Around 2 p.m. the City of Kalamazoo dropped off dozens of sandbags directly to Jeanne’s home, which they both promptly used. Jeanne said she’s grateful. However she hopes officials can get to the root of why it’s always flooding and ultimately fix the problem.
“If they can put freeway dividers on a highway and big walls to stop the noise traffic from people’s backyards, they can build a levy along this river to stop it from flooding in this neighborhood,” she said.