You’ll have to forgive Melissa Miller if she sounds aggravated these days.
When heavy rains hit at the end of January, floodwaters filled the disabled grandmother’s yard and rose almost up to the bottom sash of her bathroom window. It was the umpteenth time in the 46 years she’s lived in her home that this has happened.
Miller and her 5-year-old grandson, Daymien[cq], spent that night with a friend in Vinton. They fled right after she called 911 and begged operators to have the fire department shut off electricity to her house, so it wouldn’t burn up from a short.
Once she returned, she found out a firefighter had reported her for hoarding, because she had piles of family possessions in her yard and house. Flurries of desperate and angry phone calls to Roanoke City Hall elicited only more vague and unsatisfying promises. Miller has heard them before.
Meanwhile, the green mold grows higher and higher on the siding of her ramshackle bungalow. Now, it’s up to her electric meter. Next door, it looks dangerous to walk in neighbor Krista Conner’s yard. The ground is dotted with mini sinkholes, most likely from a collapsing drainage system installed there decades ago.
Conner took more than a foot of water in her finished basement during the last storm. You can see the high-water mark on its paneled walls. The dried mud is everywhere and so is a dank stench.
They are No. 21 on the city of Roanoke’s prioritized list of 200 stormwater projects. And what they’ve been told amounts to “don’t hold your breath” waiting for a fix.
“They say it could take one year, they say it might be another 15 years before I’m first on this list,” Miller told me angrily. “It’s taken Roanoke City 30 years to do nothing.”
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