A little over a week after it happened, Lisa Lampley looked out over the wet, discarded pieces of drywall, carpet and insulation that lay in a heap outside of her flooded home along Hwy. N in Cottleville.
Four feet of Dardenne Creek floodwater, the product of 8 to 10 inches of rain starting the day after Christmas, had run through the bottom floor of her home, submerging everything in its path, including a van and car parked in the front yard. No one was hurt, even though Lisa and one of her sons had to be taken out by boat.
She said it could have been worse – they almost lost their beloved pet, Cowboy.
Cowboy is a somewhat hairy, supposedly miniature Vietnamese potbellied pig, though there is nothing miniature about him these days. He lives in his own pen next to the house, which became wetter than usual when floodwater filled the front yard.
“It happened so fast, that we weren’t able to get the pig, all we could do is get the pig into the garage,” Lampley said.
By midnight, water was filling the garage.
“My son is only 13 years old and he said ‘Mom please, please, please don’t let Cowboy die,’” Lampley said. “So we had to bring the pig in the house.”
Cowboy had lived in the house for two years as a piglet and was house-trained to use a kitty litter box.
“He’s like a dog, he walks behind us and barks,” Lampley said.
Despite short legs that made it difficult to negotiate stairs to a second floor, Cowboy and a blind, 10-year-old Great Dane, along with three cats, spent several days on the second floor with their children’s father, John, who stayed behind to safeguard the animals and the family’s belongings.
At one time, there were seven people at the house – Lampley, her 10- and 13-year-old sons, a daughter visiting from Florida with her two children, and John. All except John left.
The house had water in it for two days and the road was flooded for four, Lampley said.
Residents of the Colonial Green subdivision directly across the road from the house could not get in or out because the subdivision’s only entrance and exit was on Hwy. N. Along with his neighbors, Cowboy also was stranded. But, on Jan. 5, he was back in his pen and grunting for someone to scratch his head.
“He’s been through a lot,” Lampley said.
Determined to stay
Lampley, like other residents with flooded homes throughout the St. Louis area, also went through a lot, with new trouble just beginning. On Jan. 5, she found out that her flood insurance may not cover all the contents in the home. Despite that news, she said she and her family aren’t ready to say goodbye to a house that sits on the banks of a normally benign creek – one that her sons fish and explore during better times.
“We’re going to try, we’re going to do our best,” Lampley said. “It’s probably going to take a while because the insurance isn’t going to cover it all. We’re staying here, it’s our home.”
Lampley bought the house two-and-a-half years ago. Her situation was repeated in other parts of the metropolitan area, particularly along the Meramec River in south St. Louis County and in the often-flooded Missouri and Mississippi river floodplain in eastern St. Charles County. However, most of Cottleville’s homes and businesses are located on higher ground.
Flooding along Hwy. N from a rain-filled Dardenne Creek and nearby ditches isn’t unusual, but Lampley said the house had never been flooded out.
It’s hard to say what made this time different, but it may simply have been the lay of the land. The old road and earth berms across the creek protecting farmer’s fields appeared to be higher than the ones built protecting her home, which may have contributed to the flooding. Lampley said her family might need to ask the Missouri Department of Transportation if the berms protecting their home can be raised.
Meanwhile, a major $3.6 million road construction project to widen and raise Hwy. N between Weise Road and Eagle Hill Drive, which may begin this year, along with a new drainage system might help limit flooding in the future.
One reason Lampley wants to remain in her home is the community that surrounds it.
Nearby residents and emergency responders helped them out, she said.
“The Cottleville community has pulled together, they have brought us food, they brought us clothes,” Lampley said.
She said a woman pulled up to the property and spoke to her 10-year-old son who “was just devastated.” By the time the woman left, both Lampley and the woman were crying – one because of the other’s loss and one because of the other’s gift.
“She said, ‘I felt so sorry for your son’ and she gave us $80 to go buy my son something,”
She said she and her sons didn’t want to live anywhere else. She had known about the property since she was a child and liked that her sons can experience two different ways of life simply by choosing which door to use when exiting the home.
“From the front door, you’re in town; from the back, you’re in the country,” Lampley said.
She doesn’t want to lose that.
“We’re going to stay,” she reaffirmed.