‘Thank God it wasn’t worse’

Photos by Alisha Jucevic/The Herald
Rene Katterhenry talked on her cellphone outside her home on East 1st Avenue and South Washington Street Monday afternoon in Huntingburg. Last weekend's flooding caused her basement to cave in and flood. Her father, David, put in extra support beams as they work on repairing the home, but since most of the foundation is damaged the house is still in danger of collapsing. Rene and her three children are staying with family while they figure out what insurance will cover and how they can repair the home. More flooding photos are here.


HUNTINGBURG — Rene Katterhenry and her three children were all asleep on the living room couch inside their home at First and Washington streets when rushing floodwaters and a waterline break caused her brick basement wall to cave in in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

She had been watching a movie with 9-year-old Reese, 8-year-old Logan, and 5-year-old Lexi before they all dozed off. But around midnight, the sound of rushing water woke up Katterhenry.

A long section of the foundation and basement wall caved in under Rene Katterhenry's home on East 1st Avenue and South Washington Street in Huntingburg during last weekend's storm. More flooding photos are here.

“I’m not sure if it was the wall caving in at that time or just the storm, I think it was the storm at that time,” she said. “I went to look, because I could hear some rain gushing. The water was pretty much at the top step of the front porch. I could see the top concrete step, but that was it.”

She thought that she should probably check the basement, since water sometimes seeps in during storms.

“I opened the basement door, and there I had one full step and a second step. The water was all the way up to the house,” Katterhenry said. “And I was panicking. The wall was already gone, but I didn’t realize it.”

She called her father. He had to meet up with her brother in his truck to reach Katterhenry’s house.

“When they put the headlights over it, that’s when we realized the wall was gone,” Katterhenry said. “It was so scary.”

The family left and went to Katterhenry’s sister’s house, which is where they are still staying. Right now, her father is working to put in more beams in the basement. The utilities are now turned off for safety reasons, so the house is uninhabitable at this time.

Rene's son Reese, 9, left, and Reese's cousin Aiden, 7, stood next to their grandfather's tractor as they visited the house with Rene on Monday afternoon. More flooding photos are here.

Katterhenry said that her kids’ toy room was in the basement.

“They had the foam layout, a little band set up with a drum set and guitar, kids stuff, you know. That was their play area,” she said. She also had a tanning bed in one corner and totes full of decorations, including Easter decorations she bought on sale for next year. Many of the totes floated away with the floodwaters.

“I think one of my totes is over there,” she said, looking catty-corner from her home.

She recently had the kids pack up old toys to give away.

“That was my heartbreak for them,” she said of her children. “They lost all their playtoys and Christmas stuff that they didn’t get to play with much.

“But that stuff can be replaced,” she added. “Luckily we’re OK. I keep thinking that I was on the couch asleep with my children when all this was going on. Thank God it wasn’t worse. Thank God the whole house didn’t go down.”

Many people around Huntingburg are in similar situations, cleaning up their homes and businesses, getting rid of damaged items and suctioning out water.

Don Dotterweich and Jim Potter of Huntingburg cleaned out the remaining water and damaged supplies at the Huntingburg V.F.W. Post #2366 on Monday afternoon. More flooding photos are here.

At the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2366 on Geiger Street, about five people were finishing with cleaning the post’s basement Monday afternoon.

Allen Fritz of Huntingburg cleaned out the remaining water in one of basement storage rooms at the Huntingburg V.F.W. Post #2366 on Monday afternoon. More flooding photos are here.

“We got more than 8 inches down here Saturday,” member Allen Fritz said as he added another trash bag to the small pile in the middle of the floor. “And the toilet backed up. We got a sump pump down here. But because the sewers were all backed up, there wasn’t no place for the water to go. So the water came up this way, through the drains and the floor.”

The club was closed Saturday because of the drainage problems. “If anyone would use the water or flush the toilet upstairs, it would just back up more down here,” Fritz said.

Workers got most of the water out by Saturday evening and were able put down disinfectant. The crew that was in Monday finished the cleanup.

“We had some damage to some furniture down here, but we didn’t really lose anything,” he said. “We’re picking up the stuff that’s been sitting on the floor and trying to get that dried out.”

Damian Hartke and his family's basement flooded during the weekend storm. The pressure of the flooding caused two sections of the basement walls and foundation to cave in. More flooding photos are here.

Damian Hartke, who lives across Washington Street from Katterhenry, is being told by his insurance company that they won’t pay to fix the basement wall that caved in at his house.

“I met a lot of residents last night who reached out to their insurance companies,” he said. “Almost all of us received zero coverage. That’s really disappointing — horrific, really. The argument is over how you define flood.”

The area is not a flood zone, so the residents living there weren’t required to have flood insurance.

“So most of us don’t,” Hartke said. “The company says that’s the loophole.”

Hartke, who is a single father of three, is now staying at his parents’ house. “I don’t know how long I will be out of my house,” he said. “I have no access to my kids because we all can’t fit into my parents’ house.” The children are staying with their mother.

“This is creating a lot of personal and financial issues,” he said.

The city has been supportive, Hartke said, with utility workers coming out to help, firefighters assisting, law enforcement patrolling to check on residents and their property.

“I’m now working with my local bank,” he said. “My local insurance agent is working with me to get (damage) estimates. I’ve reached out to a lawyer to look over my policy to make sure of exactly what it says.”

And he’s still reaching out to the insurance company. “They’re expecting me to give up,” Hartke said. “But I’m not going to. I can’t.”

Damian Hartke and his family's basement flooded during the weekend storm. The pressure of the flooding caused two sections of the basement walls and foundation to cave in. More flooding photos are here.

Katterhenry is facing the same problem.

“My insurance doesn’t want to cover this because I didn’t have flood insurance,” she said. “I have homeowner’s insurance, and I even have that insurance to cover my belongings inside.”

However, she rents the house from her father.

“I was under the understanding that if anything happened to the home, my belongings inside would be covered,” Katterhenry said. “But I talked to the insurance agent and he said we added that on the homeowners plan, but it actually wasn’t a renter’s contract. So I lost everything in the basement. I can’t get anything back.”

She hopes that this can be an example for others who have home insurance.

“You need to go back and dig through your insurance, see what’s covered, what they’re going to do,” she said. “They may say one thing today, until you have the incident to turn in.

“Double check and ask questions, to hopefully safeguard your belongings, because there are some things that are irreplaceable.”

“You pay for insurance for years,” Hartke said. “What are you paying for?”

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