Regional story: Renton woman talks of escaping flood

  • BY Wire Service
  • Saturday, January 10, 2009 4:49am
  • News
Cedar Grove Mobile Home Court resident Carroll Kilkenny

Cedar Grove Mobile Home Court resident Carroll Kilkenny

A bed, a roof and good food. That's all Carroll Kilkenny needs. And maybe a radio and flashlight.

That's what the 79-year old has in her new “apartment” at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church. Apartment — that's what Kilkenny calls her cot in the corner of a room at the Highlands church that's serving as a Red Cross flood shelter.

King County Executive Ron Sims, the county's Emergency Management director and several other county officials toured the shelter Friday morning.

“Come into my apartment,” Kilkenny said after that tour. “I have a room with a view.”

Kilkenny's cot is one of about 30 set up at St. Matthew's. Most those makeshift beds are for residents from Cedar Grove Mobile Home Park. That park on Maple Valley Highway in unincorporated King County was deluged with water from the Cedar River.

King County staff knocked on doors of mobiles at the park Wednesday night, inviting residents to the shelter, said Mark Isaacson, director of King County's Water and Lands Division. About half of the residents of the park's 35 mobiles left that night. Others left Thursday morning, after waking up “to a lot more flooding,” Isaacson said.

Kilkenny sped off from the park at midnight Thursday morning, leaving her husband Warren and cat Milo to guard their mobile. The couple's home was looted in 1999, the last time the park flooded. They waited out that flood at a hotel.

On Wednesday night, water from the Cedar was lapping at the first step of the porch of the Kilkennys' mobile. But the park didn't lose power, Kilkenny said.

The shelter at St. Matthew's opened Wednesday at about 8 p.m. Twenty-four displaced residents arrived at the shelter Wednesday night, and 17 or so Thursday. St. Matthew's is one of only two Red Cross shelters in King County now open to flood victims.

St. Matthew's was established as an emergency shelter several years ago, but this is the first time the church has been used as one.

“The system's never worked before,” said Kirby Unti, St. Matthew's pastor.

He said the City of Renton, King County and the Red Cross “deserve real kudos” for working together to open the church to flood victims Wednesday night.

Despite its shelter status, St. Matthew's carried on hosting its everyday activities. Forty children attended the church's before-school program Friday, and a couple funerals are scheduled this weekend.

“Disaster response is our first priority,” Unti said. “We'll figure out a way to work around it.”

In Southeast King County, this week's flooding rivaled that of 1990. The flood crest of the Cedar River in Renton was the second-highest since records have been kept. King County and the state of Washington have declared states of emergency because of the flooding.

Sims said King County crews are providing flood relief 24 hours a day. These workers have been using boats and helicopters to rescue flood victims from their homes and provide them with food and blankets. He said about 6,000 residents are locked in by closed roads in flooded areas such as Carnation and Duvall.

Thankfully, the county's flooding hasn't caused any lost lives or significant injuries, Sims said.

Isaacson said he expected the high flows of the Cedar and Green rivers to continue throughout this weekend. Those high flows could prolong the return of Kilkenny and her sheltermates to their homes at Cedar River Mobile Home Park.

Kilkenny was hoping to return home Saturday or even Friday night. But Isaacson said it probably wouldn't be safe for the park's residents to return to their homes until early next week.

Even then, those residents won't be staying at the park for long. King County bought the park in June and is now relocating the residents to area parks and homes with help from King County Housing Authority. King County bought the park to protect residents from the area's perpetual flooding. Isaacson said county staff hope to have the park's residents relocated by winter 2009. The county will then preserve the park's land as a flood plain.

To buy Cedar River Mobile Home Park, King County used funds levied by the King County Flood Control District. The main purpose of that district is to raise millions of dollars of property taxes for flood control projects throughout King County.

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