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Is Pettus merely doomed to flood?
by Jason Collins
Jun 12, 2013 | 1124 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Flooding in Pettus from earlier this year.
Flooding in Pettus from earlier this year.
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Flood in Pettus in 2001.
Flood in Pettus in 2001.
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PETTUS – Flooding is nothing new to the residents of Pettus.

When it rains, the water backs up and downtown floods.

But the problem is exacerbated by the amount of brush that has overgrown the Medio Creek, said Karen Kibbe, a Pettus resident.

On Monday, she approached commissioners during their meeting asking them for help.

“The Medio Creek is not clear for drainage downstream of Pettus,” she told the court.

The flooding, she stressed, is not from the local rainfall either.

She highlighted the flood only a couple of weeks ago that shut down the town.

“This is in part because downtown is built in the 100-year flood plain,” she said. “It is also because the Medio Creek.... is not kept clear for drainage downstream of Pettus.”

She had received about eight inches of rain that morning and there was no flooding in the area.

It wasn’t until later that day that the water from up north, in the Karnes area, began to flow down.

“It was the rain upstream that came downstream and backed up into Pettus that flooded downtown,” she said.

Pettus Volunteer Fire Department Chief Clifford Bagwell said previously that the Dairy Queen building flooded after a couple of windows broke out and the Fast Break convenience store across the street was damaged by high water.

Several oil company buildings also were damaged when flood waters got inside them.

The water also hit the post office, causing enough damage that the building would need to be closed for repairs.

Sam Bolen, United States Postal Service spokesman, said that the office is still closed and that customers are being asked to pick up their mail in Kenedy — 15 miles north — until further notice.

USPS leases the building and the owner’s insurance adjuster is handling the repairs.

How long will this take?

That just depends on the amount of work and the time it takes to complete it. Bolen said that right now, he doesn’t have a time frame.

Problems like this could be prevented, Kibbe said, if the brush that blocks the creek were cleared.

“The only way to deal with this is to keep that drainway clear,” she said.

She said that public entities have the ability to go in and clear the creek.

“Unfortunately for you guys, the only public entity to have jurisdiction is the county,” she said.

Commissioner Dennis DeWitt sympathized with Kibbe but said there was little that the county could do right now.

“Pettus is a real concern in Bee County,” he said. “That entire area is a federally recognized flood zone.”

He said that typically it would be the responsibility of a water control district; however, there is no such group in the county.

Within the town site, the water rises and falls quickly — often within six to eight hours. But, he said, that doesn’t lessen the damage that the water can cause.

“It doesn’t stay up very long,” he said. “It can be devastating but it comes and goes.

“You never get used to a flood. But you have to anticipate it.”

In September 2001, flood waters saturated the community as they had in the past. Like this time, the downtown businesses were closed and repairs needed once the water receded. And this was just one of many times the area has been inundated with water.

Fixing the problem will take manpower and equipment.

Kibbe suggested using the prison labor force to help.

Judge David Silva said that the prison no longer has the work crews available like it once did.

“The prisons have pretty much discontinued that program,” he said. “That was about two or three years ago when they discontinued that.”

The reason, he speculated, was a lack of correctional officers available to handle the program.

“I know they are short on personnel,” Silva said. “You don’t see them with the city. You don’t see them with us.”

At one time the county used prison labor to maintain the courthouse grounds.

So, without that labor, finding the manpower, and equipment, would be difficult.

“I don’t think we have the personnel to do that,” he said. “We could look at it and approach one of the wardens and see if for that specific project they could allow us some personnel.”

Kibbe said that this isn’t a project that will need to be done every year.

“It is not an everyday thing,” she said. “It has not been cleared since I moved here and since it flooded downtown 13 years ago.

“If we take care of this every few years we will not have this problem when we do get a rain.”

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.
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