Tunica residents continue to rebuild one year after Mississippi floods

(WMC-TV) - It has been almost a year since floods devastated the Tunica area.

Now, one year later, many residents are still trying to get things back to normal.

"It was heartbreaking everything was underwater," said Jerome Cottam.

One year after the rising Mississippi River surged into the camps, some are rebuilding, while others wait for money to come from insurance claims.

Larry McMullen left his home within the last hour of mandatory evacuations.

"It [water] was halfway up the windows it just looked like part of the river," McMullen recalled.

But now people like Cottam and his brother Joe are starting over.  The two both lost their homes in the floods and have since put their money together for a new family home.

"It's been a very drawn out process, nothing happens fast," Jerome Cottam said.

And it's expensive. New homes must be built 15 to 18 feet above the ground to meet new code requirements.

"I think the steel work was $20,000 or $25,000," said McMullen about a nearby neighbor's home.

If a residence was less than 51 percent destroyed, owners could rebuild with permission from the county.

Unlike his brother Jerome, Joe Cottam lives at the camp full time. He says there are far less people than this time last year.

"With the new codes and stuff that they're enforcing down here, a lot of people couldn't afford to come back down here," said Joe Cottam.

As if massive flooding wasn't enough, neighbors also had to deal with looters looking for scrap metal.

Aluminum was found ripped off of trailer homes.

"There are people that will try to do anything, they'll strip wire," McMullen continued, "People that come from outside they hear of a tragedy and try to gain from it."

Inside abandoned homes, you'll find signs of life, but nobody is home.

Nearly two dozen mailboxes sit outside Charlie's Camp, but only about five people ever pick it up, the rest are gone.

"There was a lot of people there but now it's just vacant," said Jerome Cottam.

For Joe and Jerome, things are looking up as they work to finish their new home in the camp.

"In the long run it's going to end up being a nicer place because there was a lot of older properties that had to be destroyed and as you've seen driving around there's a lot of new construction going on," Jerome said.

Pepper Bradford with the Tunica County Planning and Zoning Commission estimated that nearly 300 homes were in the camps before the flood.