Story last updated at 3:11 p.m. Thursday, October 31, 2002

Volunteers help save flooded studio
by Carey James
Staff Writer

photo: news

  Photo by Chris Bernard, Homer News
From left, Bob Romanco, Matt Yaki and Max Mitchell help construct a sandbag diversion wall behind Etude Studio Thursday. The studio was endangered by the rising waters of Woodard Creek.  
When Mary Epperson arrived at her Etude Studio building off Pioneer Avenue on Thursday morning around 9 a.m., she saw trouble right away.

Woodard Creek, which usually runs peacefully behind her building, had swelled overnight into a veritable river, flooding the entire area behind the studio and threatening the building's foundation.

Adding to the problem was the lot above the studio, where a blown water main was overflowing out a manhole cover, bringing brush and mud down with it and clogging the culvert behind the studio.

Epperson, a well-loved Homer figure who has taught piano to hundreds in the area since moving here in the '50s, said she didn't know what to do. She told Janet Bowen who works next door at the Homer Council on the Arts, and Matt Yaki, who teaches music lessons at Etude Studio, showed up a short while later.

Bowen and Yaki set to work trying to place plywood around the corner of the building to keep the water from eroding the foundation. It wasn't easy work, however, and the force of the water was keeping pace with their best efforts.

"We were down in the river struggling when two (Homer Council on the Arts) board members showed up and said, 'Why don't we call KBBI,'" said Bowen.

A KBBI Bay Bushline went out telling the community that Epperson's studio was in danger and asking for help.

"They called KBBI, and about two minutes later, they all just came," Epperson said. "They didn't even stop. They knew exactly what to do."

Around 30 people showed up, Epperson estimates, with shovels in hand, to help put Woodard Creek back in its place. Perhaps what amazed Epperson most, she said, was that many of the people who responded were complete strangers.

People of all ages jumped into the icy waters of the creek, digging out the bank so the creek would flow away from the studio and into the culvert.

City crews came by and helped clean out the culvert so water flowed through it, not over the parking lot, and a group of people drove off to buy sandbags. Eventually, a crew went to the beach and filled a hundred bags full of sand to reinforce the efforts of those with shovels.

"It was a real heart-warming community event," said Bowen. "It was all gung-ho. Nobody came and looked around. They all jumped in and said, 'What can we do.'"

By midafternoon, Epperson's building was no longer under siege by the flood, and the structure was saved by the efforts of many.

"I am so grateful," said Epperson Monday. "I feel so honored that people, even people I don't know, would come and help me," she said.

Carey James can be reached at cjames@homer