Families have recovered from devastation | RecordCourier.com

Families have recovered from devastation

Linda Hiller

Driving through the Gard-nerville Ranchos neighborhood off Riverview Drive, it’s hard to imagine the devastated state it was in nearly one year ago.

Then, thick mud and piles of debris covered the roads, driveways, lawns and inside of many houses. Residents were evacuated from homes which, only weeks ago, had been full of family and friends celebrating the holidays.

The unrelenting disruptive sound of bulldozers, pumps and other heavy machinery filled the air in the neighborhood from sunup to sundown.

Today, the roads are clear, the piles of silt and debris have been converted into the personal levees of many homeowners, and unless you knew it, you’d never guess how bad the New Year’s flood ravaged the area.

The neighborhood came reluctantly into the news after the Carson River floodwaters broke through the levee, over the Carson Valley Golf Course and into the adjacent property. For a variety of reasons, many residents had no flood insurance.

One homeowner, 13-year neighborhood resident Jay Wayt said he had been insured prior to the flood, but dropped the insurance when premiums doubled.

“Our yearly flood insurance premium was around $600, and when the renewal came in the spring before, it had doubled,” he said. “We thought that since we’d seen them working on the levee the summer before that, it would be OK to not renew.”

“We’re doing pretty good, though,” Jay’s wife Lila said. “The grandfather clock is still working.”

She said right after the home was flooded, it was strange as she and Jay returned to the structure in order to assess damages.

“Every inch of the house was covered with mud and it was so quiet,” she said. “Then, as we walked around, the clock was standing in the water and still ticking. It was eerie.”

Lila said a friend took the clock to their home, and even though it is water damaged today, it is back in the Wayt home, still ticking.

“We had so many acts of kindness from friends, either from church or otherwise,” she said. “Our daughter, Pamela, and her husband, Jack, came here from Pleasanton, Calif. and worked solid from morning to night for a week.”

Lila, 66, said the American Red Cross was a big help to her family during the stress of the flood aftermath.

“They were fantastic, coming with food and taking the time to talk to us,” she said. “They just wrapped us under their wing.”

The Wayts estimated the damage to their home amounted to approximately $50,000. Because they weren’t covered by flood insurance, repair funds came from a low interest loan provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA.)

The Wayts are members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, and Lila said at least 85 church friends came to help.

“It’s a heavy burden, knowing that people are out there in the cold and the wet just to help you, and that some of them might get sick as a result,” she said. “It was heartwarming, though. I don’t think anyone realizes how hard it is to recover from something like this.”

Lila said the negative aspects of the flood are also still with her.

“It still affects me,” she said. “I used to feel so secure, and now everything seems so iffy. Many people have told me it changed them.”

Still, she said, for many who helped shovel the mud and wash the clothes and dishes, pile up the sandbags and generally do the dirty work of clean-up, the experience changed them in positive ways.

“One man from another (church) ward told me that when he was asked to come help out, he was a bit anxious and reluctant,” she said. “Afterwards, he said, he had never been so tired, so cold and dirty, and had so much fun in his life.”

Pam Jenkins, Douglas County emergency management assistant and volunteer coordinator, said the flood volunteer program stopped months ago, but she knows who to call if we have another flood.

“We started with adults, and after they went back to their jobs, we had a lot of help from youth groups in the area,” she said. “They were great.”

Jenkins said more than 10,000 volunteer hours were put in by various groups and individuals.

“I know that some friendships were made and some people remembered each other from working on the cleanup,” she said. “The community really pulled together.”

Down the road from the Wayts, Joan and Bob Brinton walk around a house that Joan said has changed for the positive as a result of the flood. They spent the first half of 1997 living in a motel, an apartment or with friends.

“When we worked with our contractor after the flood, he suggested we divide the mud room and make a laundry room,” Joan said. “So, in a way we gained a laundry room from the flood.”

The Brintons were covered by flood insurance, but Joan said the real expense has come from work outside of the house, which the flood insurance doesn’t cover.

“We’re into the outside for about $20,000,” she said, pointing to a large elevated berm that separates her home from the golf course, the direction the floodwaters came from last January.

“We used the silt to make the berm on the recommendation of Howard Godecke, who came and spoke with us for free,” she said.

Godecke, 74, is a Valley native and landscape architect who knows only too well the nature of Carson River floodwaters.

The Brintons also re-did their driveway and much of the grounds, adding to the $20,000 tally.

“In a way, we’re back to 110 percent on the inside and 80 percent on the outside of the house,” she said. “It was difficult being dislocated, though, living away from our home.”

Joan said her faith in God got her through the ordeal.

“Anything can happen, but we lost only material things,” she said. “We came out of it OK. We still love it here and don’t ever want to move again.”

As far as looking at the skies and worrying about another flood in the near future, both the Wayts and the Brintons say they aren’t particularly nervous.

“It looks like it’s going to be a dry winter so far,” Joan said.

Glenn and E-Ann Logan, who were in Borneo last year during the time that their home was being flooded, and who also had no flood insurance, said they, too, are recovering. E-Ann estimated their losses at more than $100,000.

“W’re probably 100 percent back to normal on the inside and 80 percent on the outside,” E-Ann said. “But, I wouldn’t say we’re nervous about more flooding. This was our year for experiences, so we just chalked it up to that..”

E-Ann said she and Glenn have no plans to move from the neighborhood.

“Everybody just loves it here,” she said. “We are just fixing up as we can. Next summer we’ll tackle the big garage and we’ll continue with the landscaping in the spring.”

Driving through the neighborhood, under the canopy of tall trees, the only sounds in the air are of the birds and the occasional sound of a golf ball being hit in the nearby links. The rare sight of a “Home for Sale” sign is surprising, considering the state the streets were in nearly one year ago.