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May 26, 2019     Sidney Herald
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AI 2 SIDNEY HERALD, SUNDAY. MAY 26, 20|9 AG NEWS LOCAL NEWS Rebuilding starts with complete demolition for some Fairview—Cartwright families BY RENEE JEAN rjean@wlllistonherald.com The flood waters may have receded from homes in the Fairview- Cartwright area, but for the families in that area, the real work of rebuild- ing their lives is just beginning. It will start with com- plete demolition. Nine families have completely lost their homes. They will be de- molished, the pieces carted into pits and burned, until nothing is left but ash. Ash and the nails that once held walls together. None of the families had insurance. “Jack’s family and my husband have farmed that land for more than 70 years, and it had never flooded,” said Jacki Damm. She and her hus- band are one of the nine who have lost their home. “There’s never been any water on that Ian .” It’s blown a cannonball through the couple’s re- tirement. They were set to retire debt free. Now they will have a mort- gage for a new home as they head into retirement years. Still, the couple counts themselves lucky. Others weren’t as fortu— nate. They lost Crops that were their livelihood, and federal programs won’t cover that loss un- less the grain was being stored for feed. In some casear» lost not only 5' the (frog ‘-; but the bins ’ it for many years, as if in whiélilMthe crop was housed. Others are facing a fu- ture with two mortgages. e Jacki and Jack Damm sharecrop land for Sandi Angel, who, in 2015, gifted them the house they’d been staying in for 37 years. Mason and Kristen Wicorek, for example. , They took out a $90,000 loan a year and one-half ago to renovate their grandfather’s house. It was finished in time for Christmas last year. They were planning an Easter celebration and a birthday party in the house. It’s gone now. But the mortgage is not. The Wicoreks were told that flood insurance was not only unnecessary but unavailable. FEMA had not even mapped the area, and it was listed as alow risk. A house of dreams The Damms are a sec- ond generation of share croppers on land owned by Sandi Angel. The home in such situations doesn’t generally belong to the farmer, though it is where they might stay. In this case, however, Angel had gifted the home and the 4 acres it was on to , the couple in 2015. “We had added onto it was our own home,” Damm said. A couple of weeks prior to the flood, Jacki’s hus- band laid carpet in a new studio he had just finished for his wife. The morning of the flood, a crew of friends and fam- ily helped them install new cabinets. The couple took ev- eryone to pizza to thank them for the help. Com- ing home from the Pew der Keg, they noticed water coming across the highway and reported it. “We still didn’t think that water would come to us in our location,” Jacki said. She had been sick with the flu, and tired out by the day. Once home, she crawled into a recliner and fell asleep. That evening, her hus— band went down toward the river to check on things. He’d been on the phone with concerned neighbors, and just want- ed to verify, both for him- self and them, that all was going to be well. “The guys down at the oil site right down on the river alerted him the water was coming,” Jacki said. “It came to us in two different directions, and it wasn’t the same direc- tion it normally flows.” The water was travel- ing swiftly, 32 miles per hour of crushing force. Jack returned home as quickly as he could, wak- ing Jacki up, and telling her they had to go. Now. “We only had a couple hours notice to try and save a few things,” she recalled. Tractors andvmachin- ery were moved to higher grounds, crafting sup- plies in Jacki’s workshop were set up as high as ‘k HONORING ALL WHO SERVED MEMORIAL DAY V Sidney Builders FirstSource 406-433-201 2 10 DOLLAR MAIL~lN REBATE s V" IIARDWARE 8a FURNITUR'E ...... .. STORE HOURS 8 a.m.—5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday 0 8 a.m.—4 pm. Saturday www.iohnsonhardwareandfurniture.com possible. “I ran down to the base- ment and grabbed a box of Christmas ornaments, just to grab something,” she recalled. “Never ex- pecting that much water, or that it would be so many days to get back in.” As they drove away, Jacki saw the neighbor’s Christmas lights twin- kling in the night. It’s a collection they’ve added to over a number of years, that they leave up year-round. “It was like the Ti- tanic,” Damm said. “The lights were still on, the band was still play— ing when the ship went down. That was going through my mind as we drove past the Christmas lights.” Finding a new normal Figuring out what to do and how to do it has been a time-consuming and emotional roller coaster ride for the families. JAMIE KELLY ~WlLL|STON HERALD Friends helped Jack and Jacki Damm pack all their stuff into totes, for sorting through later. The mud on the floor is "relentless," Damm said, and has stained many of the salvaged items per- manently. “Our home was under water for 12 days,” Jacki Damm said. When they returned to their home, things had shifted and swelled, to the point the basement door couldn’t be opened. After prying it open, they decided not to pump the basement out. The water might be the only thing holding the foundation together. Friends helped the couple pack up all their things and haul them out. They even organized the salvaged items into wet trailers and dry. Jacki had gone to Bill- ings that day to pick out some new fixtures. When she arrived on the scene, the first thing she saw was a white angel that someone had sat on an overturned barrel. “She wasn’t dirty, she wasn’t chipped,” Jack- ie recalled. “She was perfect.” She asked her husband where it came from. “Isn’t it ours?” he replied. “No, it’s not ours,” Jacki said. The angel belonged to a neighbor, the Schlothau- er’s, Jacki later learned. She has since returned it to them, but whenever she thinks of it, she can’t help but smile. “For that angel to show up in our yard unscathed and completely clean — the mud from the river is just relentless it was just such a sign,” she said. “Here’s our angel of hope.” Damm has clung to such signs in the days since the flood. There are days, she admits, where she can’t quite keep the positive attitude she is striving for. “I remember coming home one day and telling my husband I am tired of telling people we are alive,” she said. “We have good days and bad days.” The couple is staying at a friend’s ranch who isn’t living there right now. It’s been a peaceful place to regroup, and decon- struct their old life. Jack has been salvag- ing light fixtures and other things from their home before it is demol~ ished, while Jacki has been going through all the totes her friends and family helped the couple save. There are more than 300. “I’m a little over half way through them all,” she said. “That is what I do with my day. Sort through totes.” Opening a tote and see- ing something familiar that isn’t wet and can be saved is comforting. “It’s like Christmas,” Damm said. And purging items that are no longer needed is healthy. The couple will be going into a new home fresh and a little more or- ganized, Damm pointed out. On the other hand, many things that were needed immediately couldn’t be found right away, or have remained lost, perhaps forever. Checkbooks, for exam- ple, were missing for six weeks. “I never did find my contacts,” Damm said. “They are somewhere. But God bless the peo- SEE REBUILDING, PAGE 13 Today...and every day... we are grateful for 38‘ Builders, Inc 108 2nd St. NE, Sidney, MT 0 406-482-4401 - www.bbbui|dersmt.com ' Come check us out! Now accepting new patients Around the clock 2508 Lincoln Ave. SE - Sidney 488-5700 E t t r