March 26 06:22 AM

Unique look at flooding

Councilwoman's home damaged

September 09, 2009
ALMONT — Longtime resident and public servant Mary Ann Harmon finds herself in the midst of a surging flood of public disenchantment following the Aug. 9 storm that devastated portions of the community.

Having experienced severe financial and personal loss in the flooding, Harmon can relate to the frustrations of residents whose homes and properties were damaged or destroyed.

As a member of the Almont Village Council, she has a unique perspective regarding the situation. And like many others, she is getting little or no financial relief from her insurance company nor local government entities.

Harmon recalls her first sight of the rising flood waters that caused an estimated $200,000 in damage to the two properties she owns near the Clinton River.

"It was about 3 a.m.," she says. "I looked out the window, and at first couldn't make out what was going on. It wasn't until I pointed a flashlight outside that I realized the situation."

For Harmon, that realization involved rescuing her parents, both of whom reside in a nearby cottage.

"The river appeared to be surging," Harmon recalls. "The water was above my knees. There were actually white caps forming in the parking lot."

By the time she and her brother David got to the cottage, her parents were awake but fearful for their safety.

"My parents are both 74 and my father is not well," says Harmon. "As soon as I opened the door, the water began pouring in. There was about four-and-a-half feet (of water) in there. All the walls, the floors and the ceiling were destroyed. It's a total loss."

Harmon understands the anger and frustration being directed at village council members at recent meetings; voiced by residents who feel the village shares some responsibility for their predicament.

However, Harmon believes the angry rhetoric is misdirected.

"The village is not responsible for this," she says. "Everyone was just so unprepared for this kind of an emergency. I think that's the lesson we have to take from this."

Harmon notes an "us and them" mentality from some residents who blame the village for acting too slowly in the wake of the storm.

"I think they feel the council is not being responsive enough," she says. "But there is no 'you and us.' It's all 'we.' We experienced damage from the flooding, too."

Harmon says the village is doing what it can to file claims on behalf of residents through its Michigan Municipal League insurance coverage.

"All these claims will be submitted to the insurance company," she insists. "We intend to fight for them."

In the interim, Harmon is among the small legion of unhappy Almont property owners staring at huge financial losses but with seemingly little chance for recovery.

"There doesn't seem to be much recourse unless you can afford a low-interest loan through FEMA," she says. "For me, to be offered a loan right now is like a slap in the face. We were all unprepared for this kind of thing."

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