Elderly Fort Gibson Flood Survivor Still Living Without Insulation

Wednesday, October 30th 2019, 7:11 pm
By: Amy Avery

"My family got out, we didn't lose any life, and that's a lot to be thankful for,” said Stella Cullum.

Many Oklahoma flood victims are living in less than ideal conditions as we head into the winter months.

A 76-Year-Old Fort Gibson flood victim says the temperature got down to 54 degrees inside her house Tuesday night because she still doesn't have the money to put in insulation.

"It was 54 or 56 in here last night, but I sleep warm,” said Cullum. “I’ve got cats that lay all over me.”

Stella Cullum left her Fort Gibson home back in May with the clothes on her back and her seven cats. She says the water didn't make it to their property in '86, so she thought they would be okay.

"They kept changing the forecast and the height of the water, so we just knew it was gone,” said Cullum.

Some church groups helped Stella mud out back in June, and her family helped her put up some temporary walls in September, but she’s been living in these conditions ever since.

"At the time you could see where the plywood had been put up, but you could still see daylight,” said Muskogee County District 1 Commissioner, Ken Doke.

Commissioner Doke says he got a call from a furniture store that came to deliver a mattress to Stella. They told him there was still debris outside from the mud out, so he went over to check it out.

“At the time I thought, that's strange,” said Doke. “You've got this house here that's mostly just studs but then there's this little area that's kind of boxed off, so I pulled back in and knocked on the door - and that's when I found Miss Stella here.”

The Muskogee County Disaster Recovery Committee bought Stella a heater and a microwave and made sure her electricity was working.

However, they say a lot of people are living in makeshift situations like Stella.

Related Story: Fort Gibson Flood Victims Throw Out Years Of Submerged Memories 

“We're trying to figure out how we are going to deal with a number of situations throughout the county,” said Doke. “Some of these folks have some FEMA money which can be used to buy materials and things like that, but if they have to buy labor and materials, it's just like this there's no way they'll ever be able to get back to normal again.”

Doke says right now they are looking to help flood victims get their homes back to being safe, secure, sanitary and functional ahead of the winter months.

“We had groups from all over help do mud outs and that was big; that helped a lot of people. But what happened was after the mud outs. A lot of people were still on their own at that point, with no means to really put it all back together,” said Doke. “That's the phase that we are in now, is you have a lot of these makeshift situations where they are just not ideal.”

Stella has electricity, running water, a heater, and cats to keep her warm.

She tells me she's only cried twice since the flood, once when her FEMA money was deposited into her account.

“I was at the bank, and I got my receipt back from when I paid a bill and there was this extra money. I asked the teller what it was for, and she said it looks like FEMA. I just started crying,” said Cullum.

Stella says she cried a second time when her friend gifted her a sewing machine, like the one she lost, but she says she still hasn't cried over her home.

"Things can be replaced, but people can't,” said Cullum.

The Muskogee County Disaster Recovery Committee is looking for funds or volunteers to do things like sheetrock or plumbing because there are many more people living in Muskogee County in conditions like Stella.

"I know that I would never let my grandmother live here in these circumstances and these situations, and it just breaks my heart,” said Doke, “I can't imagine lying in my warm bed at night thinking that there are people out here living in situations like this.”

If you can help or would like to donate—there is information on how to do both on their Facebook page and website.

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