By Beverly Clinkingbeard
These days the flood (now surpassing 100 days) in our county and neighboring counties is inescapable, though it may not, on a daily basis, affect your comings and goings. But in a small, rural population, almost everyone knows of someone coping with the loss of home, farm, job, business, etc., and economically, it has an effect on everyone. So, I asked someone directly impacted by the flood (who prefers to remain anonymous), “What did you do? When did you realize it was time to leave?”
She said, “The time line is hazy, one day rolled into another. But concern really began when the road ditches were full of standing water. One evening I came home from work and the Nishnabotna River was angry, rolling fast and was so full. Maybe, even doubling back. In checking at the local Casey’s Store they hadn’t received any official word that our town, Hamburg, Iowa, was in any potential danger. Within the next day or two, it didn’t get any better. It seemed there was more water in the ditches and water oozing into low areas. That is when I feel God said it was time to do some packing. I put some personal effects in my car and in the house I attempted to put a few things on top of other furniture.
“Meanwhile, I called my partner because I realized I needed help. Unfortunately, he was at work on the Nebraska side of the river. He tried to secure a truck or trailer, nor was a U-Haul available on short notice at that time of day. By then, Highway 2 had closed, other roads were closed, and it all was moving so fast. I don’t know what other people were doing as I was busy grabbing what I could, and trying to think of ways to save what I could, though I didn’t really envision water getting into the house. It hadn’t in other floods, even the 2011 flood. The road east out of Hamburg was still open, and I took it.
“After that, I sorta’ camped where I could. Found temporary storage and waited to hear what next? I know others had it much more frightening than I did. The city council and other citizens were rescuing people; banging on doors and hurrying to get them to safety as the waters flowed in. The floods have never gone past the flag pole that is in the center of Main Street, and this time it did. There was little time to sand bag or prepare for water. I think the hardest thing of it all was the realization I couldn’t go home. Essentially, I was homeless. The roads were blocked and guarded. What should I do? Where could I go?”
“What did you do?”
“Well, I lived in my car for several days until I received an invitation to stay with a friend. I was able to keep my job. You know, many people’s jobs disappeared with the flood.”
“What about FEMA? They’re supposed to be our national soft-place-to-land in a disaster. Red Cross?”
“Locally, there was an emergency center where items were available and that was helpful. The difficulty for people is trying to work and yet have time to get what is needed. Apparently, there was some abuse in that people who weren’t ravaged by flood were helping themselves, too. Red Cross offered some help and I filled out lots of papers for FEMA. When you leave in haste, things get left behind (receipts, proof of ownership, etc.) and we couldn’t go back and get them! The roads were closed by water. The same dirty water that soaked the floors and walls ruined receipts and records. I received help from FEMA, but there were many who didn’t. There are specifications and guidelines as to rebuilding or bulldozing. In some instances, it is financially and practically impossible to do either, and the city and county are financially strapped too.”
“How does this story end? What will you do now?”
“When it was apparent I wouldn’t be going home, I began looking for something to rent. So were others and the housing market is tight. Also, rental rates increased. I found a place and it costs much more than I was paying before. Little by little I’ll replace things and get used to life as it is. I’m very thankful for the help I’ve received and the kindnesses extended, but it’s been quite an experience and it’s not entirely over. There is still the matter of dealing with loss. I don’t have a home any more. I just hope I never have to go through anything like it again.”