After the flood, Austin families are finally back home

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 26, 2000

It took two and a half weeks and several thousand dollars, but Brady, Frances and I have a livable home again.

Wednesday, July 26, 2000

It took two and a half weeks and several thousand dollars, but Brady, Frances and I have a livable home again.

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Floods, even flash floods, are not over quickly. The process of recovering seems to go on forever.

"That’s the price you pay for living somewhere beautiful," Housing Redevelopment Authority flood man Tom Smith said on the phone last week after I remarked that I wouldn’t want to move, even now.

If we would move somewhere ugly, I suspect we wouldn’t have to worry anymore. But I would miss the deer, the raccoons and the cats.

The kittens we rescued from the garage during the flood, by the way, are fine and living at the Vilt-Poppe residence.

There are two sides to every disaster. While not everything is sunny, it’s certainly not all bad.

On the bright side, the basement is cleaner than I’ve ever seen it. We know Jim and Mary Alice Troyer (who let us stay in their home while we got back on our feet) a lot better, and we got to spend a lot of unexpected time with family members. Of course, much of that time was spent mucking about in the basement, but there were also many meals out and a delicious steak cookout at cousin Tom and Mary Winkels’ house.

On the bad side, our new gas grill was stolen from where it sat on higher land at the top of the driveway. (So much for all that talk about how disasters bring out the best in everyone. They also bring out looters.) Add that to the list of all the stuff in the basement that was destroyed by the flood waters.

However, continuing a theme of looking on the bright side, the wankers who stole the grill didn’t take everything else up there. For example, there were two lawn mowers, two bikes and a snow blower.

We discovered a lot of good guys during the recovery process, both public and private.

The biggest thanks would have to go to our baby sitters, Mary Alice and Jim Troyer and Franny’s grandparents on both sides. Brady’s folks got down and dirty in the basement with us the weekend after the flood, and my dad came up from Indiana last week and did a multitude of things: from fixing the washer/dryer to knocking down some of the basement walls to sharing lots of advice.

The city street and engineering departments’ response was marvelous, both during and after the flood. So was Austin Utilities, who turned us off on Monday and finally turned us back on Friday. U S West-now-Qwest located a phone jack I never know existed in the basement and reconnected us to the world, which made the cleaning process feel a lot less isolated. Charter Communications, where two of the front office girls were flooded out, was kind enough to disconnect us and date it back to the flood date, so we’re not paying for a service we couldn’t possibly use.

The Salvation Army were heroes to many including us, providing food and water for workers, needed help for older residents who couldn’t handle the cleanup on their own and us with both a generator and power washer. I hope they are getting the help they need and deserve.

The private contractors were wonderful, too. They came out and gave estimates quickly and without trying to take advantage of a desperate situation, at least as far as we were concerned. Some asked for half up front, which is tough when the electrical bill is estimated between $2,000 and $3,000, but I understand that’s because one electrician is still trying to collect from the 1978 flood.

The insurance company came through in the end. I thank God, Mohammed, Buddha and the Greater Minnesota Mortgage Co. that we were made to get flood insurance last fall.

FEMA came and went, now we’re waiting to hear if they can cover anything not covered by the flood insurance on the structure.

If I could have one impossible wish, it would be that the engineers had left well enough alone when they rerouted Turtle Creek and the Cedar River years ago.

Less impossible I hope, is the wish that Austin, Mower County and the state of Minnesota will get together and work on some kind of intervention/prevention program in addition to moving people out. Because I’m not moving.