May, 2017 – Bonita Springs, Fl to Doniphan, MO In all our plans for leaving Florida we had a date in mind that we hoped to go, May 5th. This was two days after my last day of babysitting and the day our rent was paid through. But we didn’t have any hard commitments that required us to be anywhere.
So we figured when the flip house got done, when Lance got sold, when we’d visited sufficiently with our daughter, and (after we made the offer on our new trailer) when we got everything moved and the Alpenlite sold or ready for storage, then we would leave. This all changed when we learned that our own Current River was forecast to peak well above the highest flood in written history.
My family and I own a lovely little home there in Doniphan, Missouri. I’ve mentioned it briefly a couple times in my posts but it is actually a very special place. My family (my father, Jim and I, my three brothers and their wives, along with the help of other family members) built the home as a tribute to my dear mother. She loved the river and the property she and my father owned for nearly 30 years on its banks and she always dreamed of a home there but died of cancer in 2008 without that dream ever being realized.
We built the house over several years. Much of the work occurred in 2010. We started it that spring and got it roofed and sided by fall. Then we spent the next several years finishing it out as time and money became available.
I didn’t realize how few pictures I had of the house until we faced losing it. But here are some over the course of its construction.
The view from the riverfront. Eventually we extended the deck across the full length of the house and got that last piece of fascia on.
And here is the front which faces the road.
The kitchen cabinets were the last thing put in. My brother built and installed the lowers a couple years ago but just finished and installed the uppers a couple months ago.
So you can see why we were concerned and why we continued to make preparations to leave Florida but with a lot more urgency.
We checked the page on the internet often where they record the water gauge in my hometown. It also forecasts when it will peak and how high it will get. We helplessly watched for several days as both numbers went ever higher, surpassing the initial estimates by many, many feet.
In the meantime we kept very busy. We hired out some work on the flip house that we had intended to complete ourselves, we finalized the purchase of our new camper long distance as the owners were home in Michigan, and we began packing for the move to our new trailer.
There wasn’t much we could do about the house but watch and wait. By the time our family realized the rising water was really a problem there was very little that could be done. The road to the neighborhood floods well before the houses do so even if someone had wanted to go retrieve any property they would have had to make that decision well in advance.
Noone imagined it getting as bad as it did. We have watched the water rise so many times in the past and seen flood forecasts that looked ominous but never got as bad as they predicted. Even if we had been there it is likely we wouldn’t have moved much.
Here is what the page looked like that we kept checking. At this point on April 30th, the river was almost 29 and a half feet above normal. We knew then that it was in the house. At that time they predicted it might go as high as 39.5 feet, which would have pretty much swallowed our house up. You would have only seen a little of the roof above the water if that had come to pass.
So we were quite relieved when it actually crested at ONLY 33.13 feet a day and a half later. This was more than 6 feet over the historic flood of 1904. Our house was one of the newer ones in the neighborhood and we built the floor just above that flood level. Most of our neighbors were several feet lower and many live there full time so we knew their troubles were way worse than ours.
We hoped that the flood water hadn’t reached our ceiling level. If the water reached the ceilings it would double the amount of work required to restore our home. But we had to wait another two days, until May 3rd, before the road was passable so my brother could go assess the damage.
My closest brother lives in Springfield, Missouri so he got down there that afternoon. Here is his initial view when he walked through the front door.
And here was our new kitchen.
He was surprised it was actually hard to tell where the water had reached. There was not an obvious water line. He finally determined it had gotten about 6 feet up the walls. There was a thin layer of silt over every horizontal surface but the vertical surfaces were surprising clean.
My other brothers from Texas showed up that first weekend and together they did the majority of the demo. They cut off and removed the drywall at 6 feet and removed the kitchen cabinets. They saved the uppers and believe they are salvageable but had to throw out the lower cabinets.
One of the biggest issues was finding a place to dispose of the trash. They were relieved when some volunteers showed up with trailers and offered to haul off all the furniture. That was a huge help.
There were no dumpsters available anywhere. They heard of a dump site on Sunday and loaded up a trailer full and hauled it there. That site was soon full. The rest of the debris, they had to throw off the front porch.
While they worked hard on the house, we worked our tails off to get moved into our new 5th wheel and on the road to Missouri. We finally left Florida on Monday, May 8th. And we were never more relieved to see this sign on Thursday, May 11th.
We stayed in Doniphan a week and our good friends, Amy and Terry, generously took a couple days off work to come help. My brother and his wife came back for the weekend. Our friend’s mother, Cindy, lives nearby so she visited almost every day bringing us amazing desserts, actually doing a load of laundry for me, and even taking a couple items we were about to throw away and cleaning them; that quilt hanging on the living room wall and my wedding dress that I had stored there.
We cleaned and continued to sort through what was left, deciding what was worth salvaging and what was a loss. We were able to finally get a dumpster and we moved the mountain of debris in the front yard into it and finished cleaning out the house. I found someone to haul off the appliances. And then we cleaned, and cleaned, and cleaned some more.
We got all that was salvageable into one room so it will make it easier to work in the rest of the house. We are not sure when that work will take place. Primarily we have to reinsulate, redrywall, and install new doors and trim. We may start it this fall or it may wait until next year. But right now we are just letting the house dry out.
The community of Doniphan along with many others along Missouri’s riverways took a real beating this spring. So many suffered so much. Just in our own neighborhood there were more than a half dozen homes severely damaged, all much worse than ours.
A hard working couple next door have an older home that was built several feet lower than ours so the water reached into their rafters. But the worst part was their windows didn’t hold like ours did. So instead of the thin layer of silt we had to deal with, the river deposited 4 inches of slimy, nasty mud in their home. The home of an elderly couple who had lived there as long as I can remember was severely damaged and their kids used the flood as an excuse to finally move them to the city and put what was left of their home up for sale.
We were lucky in so many ways; that the home was built as high as we ever imagined the waters reaching, that every member of our family is in construction and when we choose to rebuild we can, that the water heater and electrical systems still work and the HVAC appears repairable. Mostly that this was our second home so noone was left homeless and we have the option of walking away and catching our breath before deciding how to proceed.