New Castle News

July 20, 2013

Friends, firefighters help family following flooding

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Frank and Marilee Cratty are starting over. They have to.

Heavy rains July 10 caused the back wall of their basement at 2302 Gilmore St. to collapse, filling their cellar with water and mud, destroying their washer, dryer, furnace and water heater.

Water also ruined family photographs, Christmas decorations, children’s keepsakes and everything else stored in their finished basement.

“I told Marilee ‘We’re starting over,’” Cratty said. “Our basement is empty — just like it was when we first moved into the house.”

His wife took a less sentimental approach.

“We replaced all of our appliances within the last four or five years,” she said. “We thought that we were fixed pretty well for the rest of our lives. I guess not. I just hope the insurance covers most of this.”

The Crattys, their daughter and grandsons — Lisa, Nick and Luke Holmes — had been vacationing in Gettysburg when the storm hit.

Son-in-law Frank Holmes, who lives across Gilmore Street, called to tell them to cut their trip short.

“There was no way to sugar-coat it,” he said, “I called and told them to get back as soon as they could — their basement wall had fallen in. I felt so bad for them.”

Holmes’ property also sustained storm damage.

Water just about covered two cars and a truck parked in his driveway, destroyed most of the items stored in his garage and a shed, and damaged his furnace.

“This is the second time that I’ve lost cars,”’ he said. A similar flood wiped out two other vehicles about 10 years ago.

Frank Cratty said the South New Castle Borough Volunteer Fire Department pumped the water out of his basement, then joined with friends, neighbors and relatives working for hours to clear mud, block and debris from his basement.

“Everything had to go,” he said.

Cratty said they filled a trash bin with six and a half tons of debris. A second one is now filling up.

“I can’t say enough good about the volunteer firemen who came to help us.”

His son, Mark, said various members of the fire department returned to the house over four days. They delivered a brand new pump to rid the basement of water. They also stayed, sometimes until 2 or 3 a.m. Some remained through the night to secure the open, empty building, he said.

Prior to the repair crew’s arrival Wednesday, Frank Cratty said, he and others went back to work in the basement and moved the jacks that had held up his house. This was done to give Ken Schooley of Schooley Masonry Contractors of Eastbrook access to the back wall.

Schooley and Jeff Wagner worked in temperatures around 90 degrees Wednesday to restore the Crattys’ basement wall — about 36 feet long and seven feet high.

“It will be better than new,” he said.

In addition to replacing each of the 45-pound cement blocks pushed out by the flood water, Schooley used reinforcement rods to strengthen the wall and will backfill it with gravel.

“This is required by building code now, but it was not required when the house was built,” he said. “We’ll do the best we can but there’s no holding Mother Nature back. You can only do what you can do.”

The house was built in the mid-1960s.

Mark Cratty said Schooley pulled himself off another job to work on the house.

Replacing the wall, he said, was needed before utilities can be turned back on.

“We’ve been so fortunate through all of this,” he said. “We got a lot of help right away.”

Marilee Cratty can’t wait to get her house back.

“We added a family room a few years back,” she said. “We’ve been living there since we got back from Gettysburg.”

She said her son and son-in-law secured a window air conditioner and generators to keep it, a few lights and their refrigerator going.

“We’ve been devastated since we got back,” she said. “It’s been so hot but we’ll get by. It could have been worse.”

Cratty said she and her husband have been able to go to their daughter’s home to shower, friends have delivered food to the family and a relative provides water so they can continue to use their own bathroom

She too praised neighbors, friends, relatives and the volunteer fire department for helping them to get through.

“When we got back we were just beside ourselves,” she said. “But everyone has been so good to us.”

She added her daughter also has a lot of cleaning up to do.

Mark Cratty also experienced some flooding, including at Ellhurst Roller Skating Rink, which his wife runs on Old Butler Road.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve had flooding.”

He said he plans to attend the next South New Castle Borough meeting to ask that something be done to control storm water.

“We need bigger culverts, better ditching, something,” he said, adding, “They said this last storm was a storm of a lifetime, but we’ve had three storms like this in the last 10 years.”