Homer-area businesses, owners weather floods

Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2002

Homer took a beating Oct. 22-25, as torrential rains struck the town, causing the worst flooding in 30 years.

As the city begins to examine the damage, local business owners are assessing the harm the downpour caused to their bottom lines.

Mary Epperson, Etude Music Studio owner, said her business got a taste of the flood waters.

Epperson's studio is in front of a small, trickling creek the downpour turned into a raging river. By Oct. 24, it was splashing against her business, which is on 8-foot stilts.

A friend of Epperson's announced on the radio that her studio was in trouble and some 30 people came to help her redirect the water with shovels and sandbags.

"It was amazing the number of people who came out to help and had fun doing it," Epperson said.

Epperson said she lives next to a 1-acre plot of land that has recently been clear-cut. All the water was running off the land and feeding the little creek behind her.

Epperson said she hasn't been financially burdened by the flooding -- yet.

If the beams holding Etude Music Studio up are weakened by the flooding, she may be singing a different tune, Epperson said.

For 20 years, Epperson said she has always been warm and secure in her studio. Now, she said she's a little unsure.

For now, Epperson is happy the building is still standing.

Tim Hamilton, owner of Latitude 59, a local espresso, food and art shop, said his business weathered the flooding well.

"I was prepared. You have to be when you're in a small business," the 10-year coffee shop owner said.

Hamilton's business didn't experience any loss in sales and the building wasn't damaged by the water.

Even though he hasn't seen flooding like this in Homer before, Hamilton said he is prepared for anything.

"Last year we had avalanches," Hamilton said, adding, "It's always best to be stocked up."

The espresso bar's main supplier, Country Foods IGA, had to ship items to Hamilton on a plane, which doubled the price of products.

To combat this, Hamilton went to other stores in the Homer area that stocked Country Foods products before making any orders. Hamilton also said he ordered "just the bare minimum" to keep his store running.

Hamilton said he went to Save U More and bought all the milk he could when he heard the road was closed.

According to Hamilton, Latitude 59 is a popular hangout for people in the town and he said many people who couldn't get home stayed at the shop until they could.

Hamilton said this helped his business stay busy.

Other shops acted like shelters for folks stranded by the rising water.

Michael McGuire, K Bay Caffe owner, had seven people stay the night in his place.

The cafe did half the business it usually does Oct. 24-25, so McGuire gave his employees the weekend off.

Oct. 26 and 27, McGuire said his cafe was swarmed because people couldn't leave and were advised not to drive.

"We got low on supplies, like coffee and milk," McGuire said, adding he wasn't about to shell out extra money to ship in milk.

McGuire has lived in Homer about eight years and opened his business about five years ago.

"Living at the end of the road, you learn to incorporate preparedness into your life. If you don't, you learn the hard way," McGuire said.

The total estimated cost of flooding damages to the City of Homer was not available at the time the Clarion was printed.

Homer was isolated by mudslides and a 50-foot gash in the Deep Creek bridge caused by rising streams from the 5 to 15 inches of rain that fell. The highway reopened Oct. 28.

By then, the peninsula was considered an emergency area and the state was helping the borough assess the damage.

This story was compiled by the staff of the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

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