Cleaning house physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Archive for Sep. 8, 2011

Teton Dam Collapse – Part 2

(You might want to read part 1 first.)

Idaho Falls after the flooding subsides.

After the flooding subsided, we took a look at the situation. We were extremely fortunate because there was minimal flooding in the immediate area. One house had several inches of water in their basement, another house had just a some damp spots, and our house (which was on a slight elevation) had no flooding at all. Basically we were in excellent shape!

With help from friends (and approval from local authorities), we moved our furniture and stuff back into the house. My dog was also allowed to come back into the fenced yard as soon as we decided there was not going to be a snake infestation due to the flooding.

Roadblock into the flood area.

The next day, a friend (Bill), who worked for the Idaho Water Resources department, contacted me. There was a huge need in the Rexburg area to test well water so people can get back to their homes. I just so happened to be knowledgeable in that area of water testing, so I called up my boss and asked for a couple of days off to help out. Of course, he said yes as he was one of those who would need their water tested.

Bill got all sorts of paperwork approved and told me where to go to catch a ride into the flood area. Security was fairly tight so if you didn’t have a residence or business in the area, you were not allowed in. We got into Rexburg (one of the hard-hit towns) and proceeded up to Ricks College. This was on a small hill, but the hill was high enough to not have any flood damage. A water testing van had been set up and with just a few minutes of paperwork training, we were open for business.

On the hill in Rexburg.

Many people would drive up the hill and stop at our van to drop off a bottle of their well water. More people came by and we would give them a sterile bottle with instructions on how to capture a sample of their well water. And during any little lull in that activity, we did the testing for coliform bacteria. This is considered indicator bacteria and suggests that contamination has made its way to the well. So the well must be disinfected until the test results are negative. Until that time, well water should be boiled before drinking or cooking.  Some people had already sanitized their well and were bringing samples to double-check that their water was safe to use.

A drive-in in Rexburg.

Although it was depressing to drive into the flood area and see so much damage, I was very surprised at the positive and optimistic attitude most people had.  There was a lot of “ we will survive this” and “this was god’s will.”  In case you didn’t know, Rexburg, Idaho Falls, and much of the other towns affected had a high percentage of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) population. Their acceptance of what happened and the resolve to just get back on track as soon as possible was astounding. At that time, there was a lot of talk about how the Church would take care of their own people and little government funding was used by those deeply affected. I don’t know if that statement is true, but from what I saw, it certainly seemed to be.

The stories from friends in the area were trickling in. One friend from Rexburg received notice in time to evacuate, but didn’t have enough time to grab much. He recalled putting the TV on the dining room table. When they were allowed to return to their house, it was no longer on its foundation (had moved about 100 yards down the street) and thus not very stable. But that TV was still sitting on the dining room table!

Bent railroad tracks due to the flood.

One of the strongest memories I have is of railroad tracks completely bent. It was something I just could not imagine. They should be straight or gone, not bent! This picture is not exactly what I saw, but provides a strong image.

Another friend had their house filled with flood water. They were out of town at the time of the flood and friends had managed to get a lot of their stuff out first. However, kitchen items, such as pots and pans, and flatware, was left in the house and thus, the flood. Several days later  they were able to get back into what was left of the house and try to save some of the kitchenware.  After attempting to wash the flatware in hot soapy bleachy water, dirt just kept oozing out of the flatware. After numerous washes, they gave up and threw the flatware away. Apparently the flooding and mud just soaked into the flatware. The house was pretty much totaled, so they moved on. Interestingly enough, about a year later, after the house was rebuilt, I moved into it!

Part 3 coming soon!