The flood waters from last month’s heavy rainfall may have receded, but volunteers were still working to pick up the pieces in one Mitchell neighborhood over the weekend.
About a dozen volunteers were hard at work getting damaged homes in a condition that will allow residents to move back in after floodwaters climbed as high as four feet in some places, wrecking havoc with property throughout the Mallard Cove trailer complex on Loma Linda Drive in Mitchell.
The water levels have finally dropped and electricity has returned to some of the damaged homes, but there is a lot of work left to do to get the homes back in a livable condition for their residents before winter hits.
“The first thing that we have to do is get everything that is wet out from under (the mobile homes) so we can get it dry. If we do not do that, we’re going to run into mold and they can’t get into their homes. It will freeze, and then nobody will be able to live there,” said Jeni Malatare, a resident of the park and an organizer of the group that descended on the neighborhood Saturday morning to help out.
Three volunteers were crawling beneath the trailers to cut away damaged material. Other volunteers hauled that debris to dumpsters as it was moved out from under the structures. It was dirty work, with the ground still saturated and many workers covered in mud.
But it’s the only way the work can get done, Malatare said.
“We’re cutting away everything wet. It’s gross, and we’re still literally in mud and water under these homes,” Malatare said.
The flooding stemmed from storms that dropped a total of 7.08 inches of rain over three days from Sept. 10 to Sept. 12. The first day saw 2.42 inches of rain, the second saw 3.53 inches and the third added another 1.13 inches, causing damage throughout Mitchell as well as the surrounding area.
Steve Gross, who lives with his wife Kris in one of the homes volunteers were working on Saturday, said he was finally able to start assessing the damage after staying for several weeks with family. He said he is still figuring out the extent of the damage to the trailer, which is suffering from more than just water damage.
“I’ve been here for 16 years and my wife has been here for 18 years,” said Gross. “We just got back in, but now I found out that the house is sliding, so I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The volunteers assisting Gross are a major help, he said. He couldn’t get flood insurance for the home because he doesn’t live in a designated flood plain, and the cost of recovery is going to be high, especially after he needed treatment for a heart attack he suffered a year ago.
“We don’t have any money because they’re not getting us any,” Gross said. “When (my wife) moved in here, this wasn’t a flood zone, so we didn’t have insurance. The last time this happened, she called them up again, and again they said it wasn’t a flood zone. The only way you can get flood insurance is through FEMA, and you can’t afford it.”
But the volunteer spirit on display does give him some hope. Gross said many of the people pitching in are strangers to him, and that speaks to the generous nature of people who recognize when others that are in need.
“We’ve got people over here that don’t even know us that are helping us,” Gross said.
Malatare said she put a call out to several organizations, businesses and social media outlets to let them know of the work that was going to be done Saturday and Sunday -- the crews were working from 10 a.m. to sundown -- but she was hoping for more people to stop by and help the affected families.
“These amazing people here are volunteers coming out to bust their bums for people they don’t know. I guess to me, that’s what makes a community. We have to learn to take care of each other,” Malatare said.
She encouraged anyone with the ability and inclination to think about helping out where they can. The cleanup effort was originally only supposed to take place Saturday and Sunday, but she’s ready for more work if others in the community step up to take on the challenge.
“If the community comes together, and we work together, we can build all of us up. Instead of taking the time to ignore each other and tear each other down, why not do this and build each other up and make it an amazing community,” Malatare said.
Malatare, whose home was not affected by flooding, said the neighborhood has been frustrated with what they feel is a lack of response to their situation from the city of Mitchell. She also said FEMA funds can be slow to arrive and when they do, it may not be enough to cover damages.
But now she and the volunteers are focusing on doing what they can accomplish in the here and now. It’s what members of a community do for each other when they see people are in need, she said.
“It is what it is. The crisis is over, the pointing of fingers is done. And you know, we can complain and whine about it, or we can stand up and get something done. We sure as heck can do something about today and tomorrow. I would be happy is people came out and helped during the week or next weekend if the weather holds,” Malatare said.