"We can't find the families of the nine people who died on our street," she said. "We're trying now to find the stories of the people who survived."
Several survivors gathered at the ball field recently to meet with a Gazette reporter, including Opal Bostic, 89. Bostic, a former cook at Mount Ovas Elementary, the neighborhood school up on Mary Street, lives at 113 Garrison.
"We were right there, we stood there, watched people, houses, cars, everything. I had to get out of my house and go up to my mother's. It was a little higher. My house, it was gone -- everything.
"My husband came down the next day and found bodies."
Bostic discovered the body of one of the youngest victims, 8-year-old Richard Byers. "It felt like the crack of lightning when I found him. It was terrible. We called the fire department. My mom gave them a new blanket to wrap him in."
Like Levy, Beatrice Taylor Gandy moved out of the hollow a year before the flood.
"My father, Alfred G. Taylor, he lived at 62 Garrison Ave., directly across the street from four of the people that were killed -- two plus two. One house was Helen Givens and her niece [Sherry, 8]. She was visiting her. And the house right beside, the Saddlers, mother and daughter," Elma and Marcia Ann, 7.
"My father had a basement under the house. He was trying to get stuff from the basement to the first floor. When he looked up, his car was going. So he had to stay in the house. There was nothing he could do. Water was up to his hip in the street.
"He saw the three houses go down the street, and the women screaming. The three houses washed up against Paul's store."
Paul Cassis' grocery, at the corner of Crescent Road, stood on sturdy steel beams that straddled the creek. Rescue workers later pulled victims from the wreckage that piled up against the store.
"Helen Givens' son, Buddy Givens, came wading across the street," Gandy said. "He asked, 'Do you know what happened to my mother?' Helen's daughter, Jolene, survived in the house." She floated with the house down to Paul's grocery. "Young men heard her scream. They got her out."
New storm drain, same problems
More than a dozen years after the flood, contractors installed a storm drain or culvert system in the lower end of the hollow, financed by a 1972 bond levy. It starts near Rockaway Road, where a massive slanting grate guards the opening to a corrugated steel pipe eight feet in diameter.
"It splits into two 72-inch pipes," City Engineer Chris Knox said. "Then it opens up just before the Interstate. The culvert runs mostly under the road, with inlets on both sides for small tributaries," Knox said.
The idea is to capture storm runoff and channel it underground, away from vulnerable homes.
But even before it was completed, residents doubted whether it was large enough to do the job. With good reason, it turns out. The hollow flooded in 1996 and twice more in 2003.
The June 2003 flood, just as Mayor Danny Jones took his initial oath of office, washed out a 20-foot section of the culvert, Knox said. Jones asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for help that August.
The Corps started a study the next year, Knox said, "to see if anything could be done -- structural or nonstructural." A structural solution means increasing the size of storm drains, he said; nonstructural means raising homes out of the flood plain.
"It was determined if we installed another 96-inch pipe, it would not handle the rainfall of the '61 or the '03 flood. There's not room for that anyway. So structurally there was no alternative to prevent the flood."
The Corps determined that 42 of 88 homes in the hollow were in the 1,000-year flood zone. The cost of raising those homes, at $150,000 per home plus interest, totaled about $6.7 million.
Knox said he's not sure about the status of study now. "I think there's still a possibility to apply for federal funding."
In the meantime, the existing culvert is starting to rust out. City engineers are looking at ways to fix it, maybe with a liner, for the next 15 years.
That's probably little comfort to families who worry whenever it rains.
"We have that problem in other areas of the city," said Tom Elkins, the city's storm water engineer. "It's a fact of life. With a 500-year flood, there's nothing you can do, short of those people not living there."
Having surviving the flood, Stone now lives on top of a mountain. "My wife will tell you, I won't live in a hollow. I won't live [near] a creek." The memories haunt him.
"My wife put in one of those sound systems -- you know, ocean waves. It had storm sound. I'd hear that thunder and hair would stand up on the back of my neck. Years later ... it's something you don't forget."
A memorial service for flood victims of the 1961 Garrison Avenue flood will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the upper Bigley Avenue ball field. The service will be followed by a reunion. Call 304-344-4991 for information.
Reach Jim Balow at ba...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.