Recovery underwayOne by one, Carolyn Hanson and Dan Nichols are rebuilding their cookbook collection. Last year, all theirs — more than 1,000 — were lost when four feet of water filled their basement during the June 20 flood.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
One by one, Carolyn Hanson and Dan Nichols are rebuilding their cookbook collection. Last year, all theirs — more than 1,000 — were lost when four feet of water filled their basement during the June 20 flood.
“One of our friends has really helped us out trying to rebuild them,” Nichols said. “Every single event she can think of she gets us a cookbook. It’s really sweet.”
“If my mom goes to auctions, she’ll pick up a couple cookbooks and give them to me,” Hanson said. “So we are slowly rebuilding — same with our DVD collection.”
Some days, when reaching for a gadget in the kitchen, they’ll realize it was one of many that “died in the flood.” Being through the flood and its aftermath has changed their view of disasters. When she saw footage of Hurricane Sandy, Hanson said, “I got it.”
And rain is, sometimes, a cause for concern.
“When it was raining for quite a few days, I knew it was illogical of me to be thinking that it’s going to happen again, but it’s just this little twinge of ‘well it could,’” Hanson said.
The couple’s cleanup went quickly thanks to an outpouring of help from friends, family and coworkers. They pulled up carpeting, lugged boxes of water-soaked books, furniture and a package of unused Viva paper towels that, Nichols said, must have weighed close to 100 pounds out of the basement. Other helpers worked with Hanson, pulling apart photos and drying them.
“We had so much help,” Nichols said. “That’s the thing is that when bad things happen, good people show up, and they did.”
The couple spent the next month bleaching the basement and dumping the four constantly running humidifiers three times a day.
Applying for an SBA loan was a quick and easy process, but due to the backlog caused by the flood, the couple didn’t have a furnace installed in their home on East Seventh Street until November.
“So we had a lot of fires. And we did have to buy a space heater for our bedroom,” Hanson said. “Needless to say it was chilly. Needless to say lots of blankets, lots of cuddling.”
They also had to replace their washer, dryer, water heater and furniture as well as redo the downstairs bathroom. They haven’t replaced the basement carpeting yet, and they may not.
“Another great thing out of it is we’ve really gotten to know our neighbors,” said Hanson, who moved up to Superior four months before the flood. “So I really didn’t know the neighbors and this was, like a super-accelerated way of getting to know them.” They’re considering holding a neighborhood potluck party on June 20.
Most of the stuff lost in the flood was Hanson’s — totes of her old high school and elementary school memorabilia, like Pound Puppies and Christmas ornaments. Nichols was able to find a copy of her senior yearbook and a New Kids on the Block comic book. Other things, like a 1992 version of “Treasure Island” starring Charlton Heston and a young Christian Bale, they don’t expect to find again.
Although the flood took one of their cars and inundated their basement, the couple remained upbeat.
“It was true, any time we were looking at our neighbors and how bad they had it, we really couldn’t be too upset,” Hanson said. Two doors down at the home of Steve and Nicole Olson, the flood waters rose up into their main floor.
“Our neighborhood wasn’t complete until they came home, which wasn’t ’til October,” Nichols said. “It was a good day when they got back.”
One thing that surprised the couple was how devastating the flood was for some people, yet so many others were unaffected.
About 60 families contacted Brenda Kohel, the caseworker providing flood relief in Superior and Douglas County, and she worked directly with 54. Of those, 32 cases received financial help from the Long Term Flood Recovery Fund totaling $49,155.55.
Kohel said the biggest need was for furnaces and water heaters.
“The most important part was to make sure people had heat and water,” Kohel said. Some of the money also paid for cleanup or helping families with their SBA loans. The funds per family were limited to $2,000 for personal property and $5,000 for structural issues.
In addition, volunteers spent 1,277 hours working on five homes in Superior, mudding, taping, installing flooring and doing other tasks.
As the anniversary of the flood approaches, Kohel said there are fewer people stepping forward to ask for help. Some flood damage, like soil displacement and foundation problems, may still be lurking but for the most part, Kohel said, those in need have gotten help.
She praised the quick response of organizations like the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and United Way as they worked to keep flood victims safe, secure and sanitary. It took time for the Long Term Recovery Committee to set up, raise money, and reach out to victims.
If there is a lesson to be learned from the flood, Kohel said, it is that “we need to get involved much quicker. Because this kind of thing never happened, we weren’t ready.”
Another big barrier to getting help to victims was the fact that the disaster occurred in two states with very different resources, she said.
As the anniversary of the flood creeps up, there is still a need for flood relief funds and volunteers. For more information, call 218-336-1038, go to www.floodhomeswithhope.org or send contributions to the United Way of Greater Duluth.
To seek assistance for flood damage issues, contact Kohel at Northwest Wisconsin Community Services, 715-392-5127, ext. 119.