After the stormHumor, helping hands aid in recovery
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Dan Nichols and Carolyn Hanson lost many things in Wednesday’s storm — a furnace, a water heater, a dryer, furniture, carpeting and thousands of cookbooks. But, they haven’t lost their sense of humor.
“At least we don’t have to have a garage sale now,” Hanson said Thursday as they finished loading a dumpster with the remains of their basement.
“Those things are a lot of work,” Nichols said.
“Just have a flood, it’s easier,” Hanson said.
A buddy who had crashed in their basement at 507 E. Seventh St., noticed the home was flooding at about 5 a.m. Wednesday. The water level rose to four feet before coming to a halt. The pair battled the water with sump pumps, some helping hands and laughter.
“Our kind of mini-mantra yesterday was ‘small victories,’” Hanson said. “Every time that we reclaimed another step into the basement it was like ‘Sweet, the water level’s going down. Small victory.’
“When the water started to recede from our front yard, all right we got another foot. Small victory.”
Across the street, Central Park was transformed into a lake. Teens went wading, dove from trees and even canoed across the park.
At the Nichols/Hanson home, family and friends rallied to help the couple, some coming from as far away as the Twin Cities. They waded through waist-deep water covering East Seventh Street and swam through the back alley.
One of Nichols’ co-workers from the Douglas County Jail came, bringing her whole family.
“Never met these people before,” he said. “They just started coming … and this all got done and pulled up in two hours.”
The landlord next door lent them his heavy-duty sump pump when power to his apartment building was cut.
“It was twice as good as the one I had,” Nichols said. “It saved me a bunch of time because I had all my water out of my basement and then I could get my crew here to do this.”
“This” was dragging out all the waterlogged furniture, books, carpeting and walls, leaving bare floor and studs. They hoped fans, bleach and Lysol would prevent mold and mildew from setting in.
Dealing with the flood wasn’t always upbeat. When friends and family started leaving Wednesday night, the couple had time to think about the damage.
“This morning when I started going through the totes and I was coming across the childhood stuff, like, that was tough,” Hanson said.
But for the most part, the pair were focused on the positive Thursday. Family members have opened their homes to the two, offering them a spot to shower and do their laundry. One of their friends planned to bring his cookout to their home Thursday so everyone working on the house can eat.
“It’s been kind of nice getting to know neighbors on a slightly more personal level,” Hanson said. People have walked by, seen all the waterlogged electronics on the front lawn and said “I’m really sorry.”
Except for the few people who tried to walk away with some of the items, Nichols said.
It may sound cliché, the couple acknowledged, but they realize that other people have it a lot worse. A few doors down, soggy rugs sat on a doorstep, and across the street, a dumpster waited. On the other side of the park, a pair of shop vacuums sat at the end of a driveway. Homes in the area suffered flooded basements and, in some cases, flooding reached the main level.
“You just have to keep perspective,” Hanson said. “Yes this is bad but there are people who have it much, much worse.” All three of their cats survived and one of their two vehicles still works. And, Nichols added, they still have each other.
The two have reported the storm damage with the city. The dumpster carrying cookbooks and more pulled away Thursday as family pictures sat drying on the upstairs floor. Across the street, Central Park was green again, with just a few wet patches left on the tennis courts. As they continued to clean out, the two had a question: Where will this natural disaster rank compared with, say, the Halloween Blizzard?
In Superior’s Central Park neighborhood, it made a mark.
“I was shocked,” Hanson said. “In a day the water was in, the water was out. And now we just go from there, rebuild.”
Firefighters lend a hand
Superior firefighters received a record 42 calls in a single 24-hour period during this week’s storm.
“That blows away any record we ever had,” said Battalion Chief Scott Gordon. The Superior Fire Department responds to an average nine calls per 24-hour shift, but from noon Tuesday to noon Wednesday, they got 42.
About a dozen fire calls — including one at the Midwest Energy terminal — were found to be caused by the wet weather affecting electric boxes.
“When electrical equipment in basements gets wet it gives off a whiff of smoke,” said Battalion Chief Vern Johnson.
That was followed up by a number of gas smell calls, which were traced to Enbridge. According to Gordon, there was a sweet crude “burp” in one of the lines that gave off a very distinct smell and sent it towards residences.
No extra crews were pulled in, although the rising Nemadji River was a cause for concern. The department had plans to base a fourth rig and engine company in Allouez if the Higway 2/53 bridge over the Nemadji becomes impassable.
“Luckily we didn’t have to do that,” Gordon said.
Along with the official calls, firefighters did a lot of unofficial work helping residents clear out basements, Gordon said.
He cautioned people to stay clear of any water that’s not where it’s supposed to be.
“It’s not safe water,” he said. Currents could change and from the surface you can’t tell what’s in or under the water.