Southside flooding (copy)

Flash flooding caused by large amounts of rain and an overflow of Contrary Creek put much of the South End of St. Joseph under inches of water.

Last week’s flooding that damaged more than 150 South Side homes seemed to come from out of nowhere.

It didn’t. During a sudden deluge, the water quickly rose from Contrary Creek and caused extensive damage to 125 properties. One home was destroyed.

The situation seemed to bring out the best in many people, as is often the case in disasters. City and county workers responded to help with everything from supplying pumps for water removal to offering tetanus shots at the health department. Local agencies, churches and businesses provided assistance with food and lodging for those who were displaced. The police department increased patrols in the area.

Now, as the water recedes and the painstaking cleanup continues, all those good feelings begin to disappear into the muck. Victims are starting to ask hard questions about how this flood happened and who’s ultimately responsible for it. Even the police presence in the area, while much appreciated, comes with the realization that disturbing reports of looting prompted the response in the first place.

It’s all too easy to dismiss the flooding as an isolated incident. True, it didn’t impact as many as recent disasters along the entire Missouri River basin, but the results were profound in a condensed area. Those who took the brunt deserve more than best wishes and assistance. They deserve some answers.

First of all, how did this happen? It was an intense burst of rain, about 4 to 6 inches in a short period of time, but was it unprecedented? Other downpours haven’t always left this neighborhood looking like the Venice of the Midwest. Property owners need more clarity on debris that may have blocked the creek: How did it get there and who or what was responsible for its removal? Was it the debris or the rain, or some combination, that was unprecedented?

Worse than uncertainty surrounding the cause are the questions regarding longer-term assistance. According to state officials, early indications are that this flooding does not meet the standard for state or federal disaster aid, a designation that might sound reasonable to those sitting behind a desk but not to the families with 8 feet of water in the basement. Let’s hope more phone calls are being made in this regard.

Until then, those who are impacted are doing what aggrieved parties do. They are venting on social media and making inquiries to attorneys.

Maybe that’s how things work these days, with legal threats becoming number eight in the stages of grief. You can’t blame them. Whether they have a legitimate case is between themselves, the attorneys and a judge, but the anger is understandable until these flood victims get a few more answers on exactly what happened and where they go from here.