I really cannot fathom what it's like to live on tenterhooks while the Mighty Missouri River inhabits your house for three months. But I have been living it vicariously through my sister Ellen. She evacuated her house in Riv-R-Land Estates, in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, Memorial Day weekend and couldn't go back into the house until after Labor Day. This is what her neighborhood looked like all summer.
I watched online as family and friends spent six days helping residents sandbag.
I worried. I prayed. I hoped for the best.
All the neighbors measured the Missouri River's flood level by the shed in Ellen's backyard. Soon that was covered.
The Mighty Mo (Missouri River) found it's way around the levy, the sand bags, and the berms.
And the water was in her basement. It climbed to about 5 feet in her basement.
And it stayed all summer.
FEMA said that nothing could be done until the water had subsided.
So they waited.
Finally, after Labor Day, the water levels dropped and the it was time to assess the damage.
As you can imagine, there was mold everywhere. The basement walls provided proof of the various water level marks from the summer.
Muck was everywhere.
Childhood memories were no more.
Then my sister and her husband started to see what could be done to save their home. They worked, mostly alone night after night for several weeks removing ceiling, moldy drywall, insulation, and soaked carpet.
Then volunteers started showing up. It's been nearly a month and FEMA, the Salvation Army, the Southern Baptist Disaster Recovery Team, and Morningside College Omicron Delta Kappa's society's 500 volunteers all came out to help.
The removed the muck, mud, and filth.
The removed the ruined household appliances (furnace, water heater, sump pump, etc.)
The ripped out the upstairs carpet.
They removed the flooded bathroom fixtures.
An amazing group of volunteers from the Southern Baptist Disaster Recovery Team (who traveled from Springfield, Illinois) removed ALL the muck, power washed, squeegeed, bleached and disinfected the entire house.
Today 500 College students came and removed the sandbags, carpet and provided rays of hope.
The house now resembles a construction site. (My sister and I are standing in the same spot as the moldy basement wall picture above - one month later).
Somewhere in this process, they discovered that their household goods which had been transferred to a donated temporary storage - got moldy. It was almost too much to bear. My sister is trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel. She told me she's been meaning to purge them of their lifelong accumulated treasures.
She is an optimist.
There is some light at the end of the tunnel.
Financially, I cannot even begin to imagine how one survives this.
They are grateful they have each other and their health.
They are overwhelmed by the generous volunteers.
They are trying to move forward.
You can see the three local TV stations - KMEG; KTIV; and KCAU - who came out to interview the college students (and my sister Ellen) today. She did a great job. She's near tears in a few of the interviews.
I'm still trying to figure out how to help. I listen. I knit three pairs of socks for the kiddos. (Because handknit socks always help!) I tried to offer help, assistance, a shoulder to cry on. But there has to be more I can do. How can I use my knitting to get Ellen more help? Please send me your thoughts and suggestions.
And if you live in Sioux City area and are looking for some community service opportunities - your help would be greatly appreciated - especially if you're able to donate your goods and services as:
- a professional painter
- a professional carpet layer
- have some topsoil you want to donate
- landcaper, gardener, like to play in the dirt
- grass seed
- like to clean muck from the yard
- a professional mason (a retaining wall collapsed)
- a professional organizer (to help sort through the lifetime of accumulated treasures)
- a mover - when it's time to move their belongings back to their house
- a moving truck/driver
- several dehumidifiers (to be loaned)
- several extension cords (to be loaned)
So I'm asking for your help. As my sister Ellen always says "If you don't ask, you don't give people the opportunity to say yes."
I hope you'll say yes.