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Springfield homeowner remembers her nightmare experience in the 2007 ice storm

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 6:05 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - From January 12-14, 2007 a major ice storm hit the Ozarks. The storm crippled power grids and took an immense mental and physical toll on many people.

In Greene County alone residents filed more than $41 million of insurance claims.

”That was an event that’s hard to really explain unless you lived through it,” said Joel Alexander, the Media and Energy Services Director for Springfield’s City Utilities.

When CU lost three-quarters of its system after an inch-and-a-half of ice built up on trees and power lines (causing 330 power poles to be replaced), Denise Walsworth, a mother of three, took her family from their southeast Springfield home that had no power down to a cabin on Bull Shoals Lake.

But five days later when they returned home after power had been restored, her family was greeted by a nightmare scene.

“I came into the dining room and there was flowing water coming down from the chandelier and the whole room was flooded,” she recalled.

It turned out that right above the dining room a bathroom sink pipe had burst and for days water had been running from the top floor of the two-story house all the way down to the basement.

From exposed and moldy ceilings to carpets soaked all the way through to the padding, the damage was extensive and many things would have to be replaced including the furnace and personal belongings.

If that wasn’t enough to deal with, the widespread ice storm damage had left contractors in great demand and it would take Denise nine months to get the $23,600 worth of repair work done.

In fact, she and her family and friends would pitch in to do quite a bit of it on their own.

“I became a handyman,” she said. “I also became my own contractor and hired my own painters, plumbers and dry wall people plus I got the carpet work set up. I just had to coordinate it all myself. But it was good because I was able to see that I could actually do it.”

Denise also learned a lot about all the regulations and tests that had be done.

“Whenever there’s a flood you have to have quality air control come in to show that it’s safe to be in your home before workers will come in,” she explained.

Next-door neighbors in her cul-de-sac also pitched in to help and for two weeks her family lived at a neighbor’s house sleeping on a mattress on a floor next to a fireplace.

But for most of the nine months, they lived in the damaged home.

“The biggest danger was pieces of the ceiling would just fall as you were walking through,” Denise recalled.

The family’s belongings were kept in two portable storage units in the driveway and their refrigerator food was relocated to ice coolers on the back porch.

Denise’s three children seemed to adapt pretty well.

“My nine year-old daughter, as she walked through the hallway, said, ‘If you don’t look down and you don’t look up, it looks like a normal house,’” Denise said. “So kids adapt.”

Maybe too well.

“The downside of it was they became slobs because we had no flooring down,” Denise remembered. “So if they spilled something they were like, ‘It’s O.K.!’ I had to remind them that we were going to get new floors and they’d have to change their behaviors. We also had to get rid of a lot of their toys but I did promise them that they could pick out how they wanted their rooms to be redone and that was good. The house actually turned out better than it was before but it was a rough way to get to that point.”

That nine-month ordeal 15 years ago has certainly left its scars but when asked what advice she’d give to anyone going through a similar experience?

“Stay calm and stay organized,” Denise replied. “It’s not as overwhelming as you think it’s going to be. And keep a sense of humor.”

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