Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Recovering from the Hammond flood, in the voice of a survivor September 23, 2011

FOR THE PAST YEAR, Katie Shones has been my main connection to Hammond, the southeastern Minnesota community of 230 flooded one year ago today by the raging waters of the Zumbro River.

Katie and her family—husband Scott and children Bekah and Romie—live just across Wabasha County Road 11 from the Zumbro. The floodwaters came within mere feet of their home on the east end of Hammond’s business district.

Katie Shones and her family live in this house, photographed during the September 2010 flood by Gene Reckmann.

Even though the family’s home was spared, they were still deeply impacted by the flood, especially the Shones children.

I offered Katie the opportunity to reflect on the flood and its impact on this, the one-year anniversary. Her words are sure to move you. Katie is a woman who speaks her mind and tells it like it is. (Click here to read my first interview with her in October 2010.)

Through our months of corresponding, I’ve come more and more to appreciate the resilience and strength of individuals like Katie who’ve endured so much and yet find the silver lining in the most difficult of situations.

Main Street Hammond at the height of the September 2010 flood. Water was rushing over the sidewalk and into the basement of the gray house via the cellar doors. Katie Shones' house is only two lots away from the gray house. Photo by Gene Reckmann.

Here, then, are Katie’s words:

I DO NOT LIKE to think of that day nor the days immediately following the flood. I don’t like to look at pictures, either. I shudder at the thought of being evacuated from my home and the three-plus long weeks of the National Guard patrolling the town and enforcing a 6 p.m. curfew. Check points to enter the city, not being outside after 6 p.m….

The response of people to this tragedy has been overwhelming. Complete strangers have come into the town and surrounding areas and donated hundreds, no thousands, of man hours for clean up and rebuilding. Thousands of dollars of building materials were donated and installed in homes and businesses. Local restaurants provided delicious meals.

The flood has reaffirmed my belief that people are basically good and caring deep down inside.

I cannot sing praises high enough to Lutheran Social Services. Their aid to people was up and above the call of duty. Camp Noah, (for children who have survived a natural disaster) was a positive experience for my children. Bekah and Romie could talk about their feelings and express them through art, theater, crafts, etc. LSS still has an office in Hammond to assist people.

The parks are coming along beautifully. The baseball field is usable again and a new chain link fence has been installed around it and the basketball court. Flowering crabs have been planted in the boulevard of Main Street. I can’t wait until spring to see them bloom.

This photo by Carrie Hofschulte shows the Zumbro River raging across the bridge that connects east and west Hammond on Wabasha County Road 11.

FRUSTRATIONS. I believe there are 17 or 18 homes on the buy-out list. I am being told it will be another 18 months before the buy-out is complete. That will be 2 ½ years after the flood occurred. That is a long time to wait.

Some people are still making double payments. When those homes are demolished, it will significantly impact the tax structure of this town. What will happen to my property taxes? I also expect a dramatic increase in the water and sewer bill. We already pay about $100 a month for water and sewer…

A view of the raging Zumbro River, looking from the west side of Hammond to the east at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, September 24, 2010. Photo by Susie Buck.

I CERTAINLY RESPECT Mother Nature more now than prior to Sept. 23, 2010!  The sheer force and power of the Zumbro River was unbelievable. We did not enjoy the river this year as in years past. Bekah and I only went tubing twice this year—last year we went 13 times in one week!  Scott and Jerome took the flat bottom out a few times in 2011. Not very often compared to years past.

However, there is a silver lining to this all. People have come together to help each other. The community is much closer knit than before. Neighbors that haven’t spoken to each other for a long time stop by to chat and visit. After Scott’s neck surgery last fall, I had many offers of help for snow removal and cutting and splitting of firewood. I don’t think as many people would have helped out prior to the flood as after.

Sheri Ryan shot this image of the same bridge, above, when the water had returned to its almost "normal" level.

BEKAH AND ROMIE STILL WORRY about flooding, especially when it downpours. They monitor the weather station almost every day and keep a close eye on the river level. Rebekah doesn’t cry out in her sleep anymore, thank goodness. The bags are still packed under her bed, though. Jerome doesn’t speak of that day often. I think he is like me, I try to forget it. However, I know they will never forget that day for the rest of their lives. (Click here to read an earlier post about the flood’s impact on Bekah and Romie.)

One more thing: The flood has taught me not to sweat the little things in life. Family, friends and faith are what is important in life.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

After the flood: “A long way from normal” in Hammond September 22, 2011

HOW DOES A DEVASTATING flash flood change you and the place you call home?

I posed those and other questions to Tina Mann from Hammond, a southeastern Minnesota community ravaged last September by the overflowing waters of the Zumbro River. A year later, what is life like in Hammond for residents such as Tina, now a member of the Hammond City Council?

Here, in her words, are Tina’s reflections one day before the one-year anniversary of the flood which left her and her family living in three hotels and a rental house for three months before they could return to their Hammond home.

Tina, on her June 25 wedding day, in the bridal gown she saved when she had to evacuate her home last September. Photo by Sherwin Samaniego Photography.

How has Hammond/life in Hammond changed since the flood?

Hammond is a lot quieter now. A lot of our long time residents have left, and a lot of our regular crowd has been sporadic. But, they are slowly starting to trickle back in.

Hammond has made some new friends along the way, and we see some of them come back down from time to time, too. I predict, though, that as winter draws close, that it may taper off. I think we may be in for another very quiet Hammond winter. There are fewer children, too, which makes it hard for the few that are still here. I hope that sometime down the line, Hammond will start to see more families coming down here.

An aerial view of Hammond during the flash flood of September 2010. Photo courtesy of Micheal and Tina Mann.

What still needs to be done in terms of recovery in your community? Be specific.

For the most part, weather permitting, the city should be done with the municipal repairs by the end of the month. We were able to get the park building repaired and fully restored.

On the residential end, however, things are different. FEMA and the State funded the programs to repair the Municipality of Hammond and, with some careful planning and negotiating, we were able to come very close to a pre-flood state.

But the residents did not get any FEMA aid at all. Some only qualified for a state grant, which just barely covered expenses to repair their homes. Some qualified for low-interest loans and depending on the amount of damage to the home, they may have been able to replace a few of their possessions. But without FEMA funding, most people were not compensated for their personal belongings and it may well be many years before they feel they are ‘recovered.’

Then there are those still waiting for their buy-outs. The residents on the state program have begun receiving their offers, but are still in the ‘red tape’ part of the process and have not received any funding yet, and those on the federal list (50 percent or more damage, in flood way and flood plain) have been put on hold by the federal government, and no one knows how long that is going to take.

After the flood, the gutted home of Dallas and Vicki Williamson, who relocated 35 miles away to an 1882 hilltop farmhouse in rural Cannon Falls. Photo by Sheri Ryan.

Do you need additional funding for Hammond recovery projects? Volunteers still needed? I’m wondering how that park rebuilding is going.

The ‘city’ is pretty well rebuilt and I am happy to say that we no longer need volunteers unless we decide to start some new projects.

Financially, however, we are still trying to find ways to compensate for some shortfalls. There are city employees that have not been compensated for personal expenses, such as cell phone overages, incurred while working for the city during the immediate aftermath. Although it is realized that it is a responsibility of your position, we also feel that if we can find a way to do it, it really is the right thing to do.

We also have employees who worked well beyond the normal scope of their position and they really do deserve compensation for their time, services, and personal expenditures. Although most of them haven’t asked for it, it still would be nice if somehow we could work it out. These people did a phenomenal job taking care of our city!

And we have the future to look at, too. We are probably going to loose 6-8 residential properties to the 100 percent buy-outs. There are another 10 or so on the 50/50 buy-out list And those who choose the 50/50 but do not rebuild, of course their property value will decrease dramatically.

This is going to have financial consequences to our tax base, which is going to result in higher property tax and water and sewer bills for every business and property owner in Hammond.

And we need to take a look at what we are going to do with all of the new green space in town. When we lose the residents to the 100 percent buy-outs, those properties become ‘green space’ by law. That means that the lots become city property that cannot have permanent structures built on them. Many of these lots are centrally located in the middle of a residential area. The city is going to be moving into phase two of the recovery, which is the long-term aspect…and we do have a lot of things to think about and consider.

This photo shows the destroyed road that goes from Wabasha County Road 11 to the business area on the east side of Hammond. Waters were receding in this photo taken mid-morning on Saturday, September 25, 2010, by Jenny Hoffman.

Is there a sense of frustration about anything or are things going well?

Yes, there has been, and is, a lot of frustration. It has been a very long, hard process trying to filter through the red tape to realize what is the ‘city’s’ responsibility, what is the ‘residents’” responsibility, and what programs are responsible for what.

A lot of phone calls from residents, confused about who they should be speaking to. Frustration because the process is very slow. The city has very few answers for the residents who are working with the buy-out program and it’s been hard to convey the message that the city has nothing to do with that part of it and we really have no answers for them. All we can do is direct them back to the agencies they are working with.

We have lawns that are not being mowed, properties that have been abandoned since the flood. The residents that have rebuilt are frustrated because the ‘clean-up’ won’t be complete until these issues are resolved, and we don’t know how long it is going to take.

Our city is coming together, but we really are still a long way from being back to normal.

Floodwaters destroyed everything in the basement of the house where Tina, Micheal, Cassie and Christian and Bob and Cathy Mann live. Photo courtesy of Micheal & Tina Mann.

What was the biggest single impact of the flood on you emotionally? Did it change you in any way?

Watching the hurricanes and flooding in the east was really hard and I realized that my emotions are still very raw. I could not control my weeping as I watched the news and saw the devastation in the eyes of those people. I know how that feels, I’ve been there….. It still hurts very much. I doubt that feeling is ever going to go away.

Becoming involved with the city on the council has opened my eyes to a lot, and yes, it has changed me. This flood and the impact it is going to continue to have on this area for years to come is bigger than what the eye can see. We are going to be dealing with this for a long time.

On a personal level, I am dealing with the impact by being involved with the revolution of Hammond. I have been very busy planning the Anniversary Party (set for Saturday, September 24) and working on the council ‘learning the ropes’. I plan to be involved in finding the solutions to the challenges that are before us, and help guide Hammond into the future.

Hammond's riverside park was all but destroyed by the flood. Marks on the shelter roof show how high the water rose. A baseball field next to the shelter, with a fence around it, is covered by receding floodwaters. Jenny Hoffman took this photo at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010.

THANK YOU, TINA, for sharing your thoughts. You have always been open and honest, never holding back, and I appreciate that. We can all learn a thing or 10 from you about the strength of the human spirit and the strength of community.

READERS, PLEASE CHECK BACK for another post featuring thoughts from Hammond resident Katie Shones.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

One year later: A thank you party in flood-damaged Hammond September 21, 2011

An aerial view of Hammond during the flash flood of September 2010. Photo courtesy of Micheal and Tina Mann.

NEARLY A YEAR AGO, residents of  Zumbro Falls and nearby Hammond were evacuating their homes during a devastating flash flood.

They were not prepared—could not have been prepared—for the rapidly rising Zumbro River that would inundate their homes and businesses on September 23/24, displacing them for months and many of them permanently.

Within three weeks of the flooding, while on a Sunday afternoon drive to view the fall colors, my husband and I drove into Zumbro Falls. There I met Jackie, Tracy and Susie. Just down the road in Hammond, I met Katie.

Tracy Yennie of Zumbro Falls, whom I photographed shortly after the flood which left her without a home and living temporarily in a shed.

These four women shared their stories and frustrations and worries with me. In return, I published what I today consider some of the most powerful posts I have ever written. Click here to read this flood series published on October 11, 2010.

Flooding in Hammond, one year ago. Photo by Susie Buck.

My coverage of the flood did not end then. These women so impressed me with their fortitude, their strength and their outspokenness that I continued to follow one of them, Katie Shones of Hammond, throughout the year. Katie was my go-to person any time I wanted an update from her Wabasha County community of 230. Not once did she suggest that I was intruding into her life. In fact, she has gone above and beyond in answering my many questions. She also introduced me to her dear friend, Tina (Marlowe) Mann.

Tina and I have never met, but we’ve corresponded numerous times via e-mail. Like Katie, Tina has always, always, been forthright and open with me. She allowed me to share her story in a March 13-19 series. Click here to read the first of those six posts.

Via my connections with Katie and Tina, I was able to inform you of the need for volunteer help in Hammond. And at least two readers responded with crews to assist in Hammond. Others of you may have responded in ways that I’ll never know.

This weekend Hammond is celebrating its recovery with a “Thank You” party. “We would like anyone who was impacted, donated, volunteered, or showed compassion for Hammond to come back down and see how far we’ve come and allow us to show our appreciation – the Hammond way!!!” Tina wrote in a recent e-mail. She invited me to attend and said I could spread the word.

So, if you fall into that “impacted, donated, volunteered or showed compassion for Hammond” category, make your way to this picturesque riverside berg on Saturday, September 24, to celebrate with Tina and Katie and their families and the other residents, and former residents, of Hammond.

The first day back into their flooded Hammond home, Vicki and Dallas Williamson had 20 minutes to grab whatever they could carry on the back of a four-wheeler. The family did not move back. Photo by Sheri Ryan.

Tina, who now serves on the city council; Hammond Bar co-owner Janice Farris; Hammond Café co-owner Cindy Campbell; former Mayor Judy Radke; and flood-affected resident Beau Mischke did the initial planning for the party and pulled in many local residents to help with activities, according to Tina.

Here’s the schedule of events:

  • 2:30 p.m., park dedication
  • 2:45 p.m., Kiddy Carnival
  • following the carnival, horseshoes at the Hammond Bar & bean bags at the Hammond Cafe
  • 3 p.m., corn husking in the park
  • 5 p.m., free sweet corn and hot beef sandwiches
  • Also, live music by Led Penny and Bad Logic and fireworks at dusk.

As you might guess in a small town, the entire event and door prizes are being covered by donations from businesses, residents, friends of Hammond and clubs. I’m not going to list them for fear of omitting someone.

Suffice to say you would be impressed.

And just one more thing. Tina tells me that by the end of the month, 12 crab apple trees will be planted on Main Street and in the east end of the park in honor of the children of Hammond affected by the flood.  Those, too, have been donated, by a Rochester nursery and garden center. Click here to read an earlier post about the affect of the flooding on Katie Shones’ children.

I never doubted that the folks of southeastern Minnesota would rebound from the devastating flood of September 2010. I knew it when I met Jackie, Tracy, Susie and Katie. These are strong, determined women. Nothing would stop them from reclaiming their communities.

The bridge connecting east and west Hammond is barely visible during the flood, which also overtook the town's park. Photo courtesy of Micheal and Tina Mann.

CHECK BACK FOR A POST tomorrow in which Tina Mann shares her thoughts on the past year and how her community has worked toward recovery. As in the past, Tina speaks with an honest, open voice that will touch your heart.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Vote to rebuild parks in four flooded Minnesota communities June 9, 2011

An aerial view of Hammond during the flash flood of September 2010. Photo courtesy of Michael Mann & Tina Marlowe.

FOR SOME TIME NOW, I’ve been committed to helping the folks of Hammond in southeastern Minnesota recover from a devastating September 2010 flood.

I’ve assisted in the best way I can—not physically—but with words and photos on this blog. We all possess talents and mine are not hanging sheetrock or swinging a hammer. I write. There is power in words.

Last October I brought you a series of stories and photos from Hammond and neighboring Zumbro Falls, where I interviewed several individuals and shot many photos showing the damage caused by the flooded Zumbro River. The women I spoke to shared heartbreaking stories. Yet, they remained strong. That impressed me.

I spoke to Tracy Yennie in Zumbro Falls several weeks after the flood damaged her home.

A gutted, flood-ravaged home in Zumbro Falls.

The exposed side of the restaurant/grocery, where a portion of a building once stood in Hammond. The building lies in a heap in the street.

I saw gutted homes and businesses, a child’s toy lying in a pile of discarded appliances. Truly, I could not fathom the personal loss of possessions and home.

In March I published a series of stories about Tina Marlowe and her family, who lost so much to the floodwaters in Hammond. Hers was one story of many that you will never hear. Some residents have decided not to return. Others await possible buy-outs or funding to repair their homes.

But beyond the individual losses, these towns have suffered as communities. They’ve lost gathering spots and places for their children to play. Parks need rebuilding. To do this, these communities need money.

Marlowe, who was recently elected to the Hammond City Council, has started the Hammond Park Flood Recovery Project and is accepting donations of monies, materials and labor to rebuild the recreational areas in her river hamlet.

Send donations to: City of Hammond Park Flood Recovery Project, 320 East Center Street, Hammond, MN. 55991. Click here to learn more about this effort.

 

Hammond's riverside park was all but destroyed by the flood. Marks on the shelter roof show how high the water rose. A baseball field next to the shelter, with a fence around it, is covered by receding floodwaters. Jenny Hoffman took this photo on September 25, 2010.

The bridge connecting east and west Hammond during the flood, which also overtook the town's park. Photo courtesy of Micheal Mann & Tina Marlowe.

AND NOW A 16-YEAR-OLD Zumbrota-Mazeppa High School student, Amy Schultz, has stepped up, leading the push to secure a $50,000 Pepsi Refresh Project grant that will repair flood-damaged parks in Zumbro Falls, Hammond, Pine Island and Owatonna.

Schultz tried for a grant earlier this year, focusing solely on Zumbro Falls and Hammond. Now she’s expanded her area, hoping that the inclusion of Pine Island and Owatonna will mean more votes. The top 10 projects, those with the most votes, get the $50,000.

Simple? Yes. Just vote by:

Voting continues through June. When I checked the ranking for this project on Wednesday morning, Schultz’s idea stood at number 27. Let’s blast that number into the top 10.

This high schooler is determined. Just read this information I found online, in news releases she sent to cities, Chambers of Commerce and elsewhere: “The local parks are part of the fabric that joins these picturesque river towns together. It is where families and friends come to play and visitors come to sit by the riverside all summer long. So many memories have been made here over the years and we need to restore them for current and future generations.”

Convincing words from a young woman who wants to make a difference in four Minnesota communities still recovering from the September 2010 flash floods.

Vote today and every day until the end of June for the “Rebuild Parks in Owatonna, Zumbro Falls, Pine Island and Hammond MN” project.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Help rebuild the parks in flood ravaged Hammond, Minnesota April 28, 2011

An aerial view of Hammond during the flash flood of September 2010. Photo courtesy of Micheal Mann & Tina Marlowe.

SEVEN MONTHS AFTER the raging Zumbro River ravaged the small southeastern Minnesota community of Hammond in a flash flood, residents are still struggling to recover.

That recovery reaches beyond the rebuilding of homes and lives.

Hammond needs more, like help rebuilding its parks.

Hammond resident Tina Marlowe, who was the subject of a series of blog posts I published in March, was recently elected to the Hammond City Council. She’s making it her mission to rehabilitate the East End Park and Ball Field, the basketball court and the Children’s Park.

But Tina can’t do this alone. She’s counting on the generosity of others to donate monies, materials and manpower (womanpower) to the Hammond Park Flood Recovery Project.

First, though, consider what’s been lost. The merry-go-round in the Children’s Park was swept down river to Jarret and was substantially damaged. The ground cover in the park is gone. Picnic tables, grills, fire rings, garbage cans and more were washed away. FEMA will replace some items, but not all.

Hammond's riverside park was all but destroyed by the flood. Marks on the shelter roof show how high the water rose. A baseball field next to the shelter, with a fence around it, is covered by receding floodwaters. Jenny Hoffman took this photo at 10 a.m. on Saturday, September 25, 2010.

The bridge connecting east and west Hammond is barely visible during the flood, which also overtook the town's parks. Photo courtesy of Micheal Mann & Tina Marlowe.

Tina wants to not only rebuild Hammond’s parks, but she wants to improve them, make them more family-friendly, with updated equipment.

Here are some of her ideas: “I would love to put a Pirate Ship System down at the East End. This is a popular camping and gathering area and I thought it would be very symbolic for the kids.

I would also like to put in an outdoor fitness area up at the Children’s Park. These are becoming a very popular alternative to the gym and would serve the community well when you consider our location. What a great financial alternative for families in this area. We would include equipment for adults and the children so the entire family can come down to the park and get some great exercise outdoors—and what better scenery!”

Tina’s vision is a multi-step process that she says could take years to achieve. She has set goals and is determined to help her town of about 230 residents (pre-flood).

Right now she’s asking for cash donations and donations and/or reasonable offers of used playground equipment (like that offered on public surplus from churches and schools), ground cover (sand, wood chips or chipped rubber) and green-treated lumber for dug-outs.

Can you help? If you can, submit a comment with your contact information (which I won’t publish) and I’ll take it from there.

Or, you can call Tina directly at 507-753-2166.

Cash donations should be sent to:

City of Hammond

320 East Center Street

Hammond, MN. 55991

Along with your cash donation, please submit a letter stating that the funds are for the Hammond Park Flood Recovery Project. Include a return address so appropriate charitable giving tax information can be sent to you.

If you are a teacher or the leader of a children’s/youth group, or just a parent, perhaps you can take this project on and rally your kids to help the kids of Hammond.

If you own or work for a company that can provide playground equipment or other materials, considering donating to the cause.

If you are a carpenter capable of building a pirate ship, offer to build one.

If you’re a Boy Scout, student or other young (or older) person looking for a project, you can probably assist in some way. Ask. Offer to help.

I am convinced that Tina’s visions for Hammond’s parks, for her community, can become a reality. Likewise, I believe that all of this can happen within a much shorter time frame than Tina thinks. Let’s aim for this summer.

You can make that happen, for the children of Hammond.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Part VI: The future for Hammond and Tina March 19, 2011

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post marks the final in a series of six stories that focus on a Hammond, Minnesota, family forced from their home during a September 2010 flash flood. Today we look at Hammond, its recovery and how you can help.

“WE HAVE A LONG ROAD ahead of us and none of it can really start until spring,” says Tina Marlowe, assessing the work that still needs to be done in Hammond. Her family returned to this town of (once) 230 residents shortly after Christmas.

This southeastern Minnesota community exists in limbo as residents await the arrival of warmer weather, and money, to begin rebuilding their community. Many homes must be gutted and rebuilt or torn down. Hammond needs a new city hall and new maintenance equipment. The river bank, river bed, parks and canoe landing need to be cleaned and rebuilt.

“Everything…everything is left to be done,” says Tina, who plans to help form a park committee that will raise $200,000 to update and rebuild the town’s parks. Tubing, canoeing, a horseshoe tournament, camping, fishing, motorcycling and more draw locals and visitors to this quiet river valley, “a beautiful gift of nature that we like to call ‘Our Valley’,” Tina says.

She and good friend Katie Shones will be setting up a Park Fund for donations to rebuild the parks.

 

Hammond's riverside park was all but destroyed by the flood. Marks on the shelter roof show how high the water rose. A baseball field next to the shelter, with a fence around it, is covered by receding floodwaters. Jenny Hoffman took this photo at 10 a.m. on Saturday, September 25, 2010.

HOW YOU CAN HELP?

“SINCE OCTOBER, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota has been very involved in the long-term recovery efforts in the Pine Island – Oronoco area and in Wabasha County,” says Caitlin Hughes, LSS Disaster Services administrative specialist.  “LSSMN assisted in the development of two community supported long-term recovery committees. These committees are working with the LSSMN Southeast Minnesota Disaster Response Team to help families locate the precious resources to rebuild their homes and their lives.  Presently LSSMN has a local staff of three disaster case managers, a volunteer and resource coordinator and a reconstruction manager.

Currently, the disaster case managers are working with over 250 families/ individuals and the rebuild team is assisting 25 clients in using volunteers to make their homes habitable once again.”

St. John’s Lutheran Church is serving as a base for LSS relief operations in Hammond. Contact LSS caseworker Mary Walker at 507-753-3057 business days. St. John’s has served, among other functions, as a site for distribution of food, clothing and other essentials to flood survivors.

INDIVIDUALS INTERESTED in helping with Hammond’s recovery should contact LSS Volunteer Coordinator Dan Kalstabakken at 651-741-7234.

Go to this link for the most up-to-date information on LSS efforts in southeastern Minnesota: http://www.lssmn.org/disaster/

Also visit the Zumbro Valley Disaster Relief Fund.

Tina says flood survivors could use cash donations and that skilled laborers are still needed to help with the ongoing rebuilding efforts.

HELPING THE CHILDREN

LSS also provides support for children who have been through disasters like the Hammond flood.

Camp Noah is a day camp for children impacted by disaster that offers children a safe, caring and fun environment where they can heal and process their disaster experience, according to LSS. The five-day camp is based on a curriculum that celebrates each child’s unique gifts and talents and provides them with an opportunity to share their story.

For more information about Camp Noah, call 612-879-5312 or go to http://www.lssmn.org/camp_noah/

 

This photo shows the destroyed road that goes from Wabasha County Road 11 to the business area on the east side of Hammond. A bar, bank, cafe, city hall and homes are located along this street. Waters are receding in this photo taken mid-morning on Saturday, September 25, 2010. All of the businesses, city hall and most homes along this road were flooded.

THE FUTURE FOR TINA

Tina and her fiancé, Micheal Mann, are planning a June 25 wedding. The bride will wear the wedding dress she saved from the floodwaters.

“I don’t know how we will get the wedding paid for now…it certainly won’t be all that I planned it to be,” Tina says.

But, despite the financial hardship, the setbacks, the challenges, this determined woman wants to move forward. And that means proceeding with the wedding as planned. Her wedding will give people a break, a reason to “take one night to celebrate all that is real in this life: friends, family and love.”

THIS CONCLUDES my six-part series of stories told through the voice of Hammond flood survivor Tina Marlowe. Thank you, Tina, for the privilege of sharing your story. I admire your strength, your determination and your resiliency.

Thanks also to Katie Shones, who has been my main contact in Hammond since last October. She is one strong, kind woman.

Thanks, too, to Susie Buck for pulling together the many photos featured in this series and to those who allowed their images to be published here.

Sheri Ryan, I am grateful to you also for the use of your photos, but, more importantly, for a deeply personal look at how this flood affected your mom. All too often we view blurs of faces and piles of debris, but we fail to see beyond, to the real hurt that runs deep.

I appreciate every one of you who have so willingly worked with me to tell the story of the people of Hammond through words and photos.

I also appreciate volunteers like Gary Schmidt from the Twin Cities who worked with a Woodbury church to bring volunteers to Hammond in late January and then again one day in March. Gary learned of the need through this blog. I hope to share Gary’s experiences with you in a future post.

I am grateful also to the folks over at Minnesota Public Radio who have plugged my flood series online. In the “Minnesota Today” section, Michael Olson included a reference to my stories in his March 16 statewide blog round-up. My post, “She just wants to hug her house,” was also featured in MPR’S “Blog Box.”

MPR columnist Bob Collins summarized my series and linked to my blog in the “5×8″ section of his March 18 “News Cut” column. Bob also publicized my first set of flood stories back in October 2010, when I toured Hammond and Zumbro Falls about two weeks after the flash flood. Thank you, MPR, for helping Hammond’s story reach an even wider audience.

It is my hope, Minnesota Prairie Roots readers, that the flood stories I’ve shared with you this week will touch you. I hope you will be moved to help the residents of Hammond recover from a flood that may have damaged their homes, but has not destroyed their spirits.

These are strong, strong people who continue to need our support, our prayers and our help even six months after the flood.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Gratitude from a Minnesota flood survivor January 14, 2011

YESTERDAY I APPROVED a comment submitted by Tina Marlowe on my November 12, 2010, post, “An update from flood-ravaged Hammond & Floodfest 2010.”

Maybe you read the comment from this woman who survived the September flooding of tiny Hammond in southeastern Minnesota. Tina and her family fled their flooded home and lived in a hotel, then a rental house in Rochester, before returning to Hammond shortly after Christmas.

In case you missed Tina’s heartfelt comment, I am republishing it here because you need to read the words of this flood survivor. She writes with touching honesty, depth and emotion.

A child's toy lies among the tires and other rubble at a collection point in Hammond when I visited the small Wabasha County town along the Zumbro River some 2 1/2 weeks after the September flood. Seeing that child's discarded toy among all the flood debris depicted, for me, the personal side of this natural disaster.

You’ll hear more from Tina in the future. She sent me a four-page e-mail in response to additional questions I asked. Her answers will move you to tears. Once I’ve sorted through her missive—and that could take a week or three—I’ll publish Tina’s complete story in a series of installments.

But for now, read this portion of Tina’s story:

I AM THE DEAR FRIEND that Katie spoke of. My name is Tina. I am happy to report that my family: my father and mother-in-laws to be; my fiancé, Micheal; and my children, Cassandra and Christian, moved back into our home in Hammond the weekend of New Year’s Eve. We tried desperately to get back in by Christmas, but a couple of our snow storms and other glitches set us back a few days. But we are home, finally.

It has been a long, hard road to get here, and it is simply amazing how far we have come in such a relatively short amount of time. We are lucky, so very, very lucky. We are the third or so family home so far. But it is comforting to look out the window and see the contractors in our neighbors’ houses!

I know now what they don’t quite realize yet. Their homes are going to be beautiful once again, and most likely better than they were before! I cannot even describe the emotions of coming home to a beautifully rebuilt home, after all we have been through.

It would have never been possible, though, without the hard work, generosity, and compassion of all of our neighbors. Not just our neighbors in Hammond, Zumbro Falls, Mazeppa, Millville, Elgin, Plainview and Rochester, but also our neighbors in Rushford and Winona area who know all too well the nightmare we are going through, our neighbors from Minneapolis, Wisconsin, Iowa, and reaches farther than anyone will ever know.

From our school districts, to church groups, to motorcycle clubs, teen-agers, retirees, sentence-to-serve program…. the diversity of mid-westerners that rallied around us and embraced us and fed us and clothed us and held us and cried with us, and wiped our tears and told us we would be ok…

It has all been a truly amazing demonstration of humanity…. indescribable. I am very proud to live in such a wonderful place, and eternally grateful to each and every person who has already, and those who are still to come, for all of your help. There is still a lot, I mean a lot, of work left to be done, and I know that with such wonderful people surrounding us that it will be done.

Thank you and God Bless You All – The Mann Family

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Ongoing stories of flood recovery in Hammond, Jarrett and Zumbro Falls January 5, 2011

THREE MONTHS AGO I met four strong women from Wabasha County.

They had survived devastating late September floods that ravaged their communities and left two of them homeless.

Since then, I’ve kept in contact with one of those survivors, Katie Shones of tiny Hammond. The floodwaters of the Zumbro River stopped within feet of her front door. Now, that might be enough for Katie to breathe a sigh of relief and continue on with her life. But not Katie. She cares about her hamlet of Hammond and the residents she considers family.

 

A flood-damaged home and garage in Hammond, along the same street where Katie Shones and her family live. I took this photo only 2 1/2 weeks after the late September flood devastated the area.

I CARE, TOO, and I’ve promised Katie that I will continue telling the story of this region. In the always changing world of natural disasters, we quickly forget about a flood or an earthquake or a tornado as they all blend seamlessly together. That may sound harsh, but I know it is honest reality.

Katie e-mailed a few days ago, after I selected eight posts on the September flooding as my personal favorite Minnesota Prairie Roots stories for 2010.

In her message, Katie updated me on the recovery situation in Hammond and neighboring Zumbro Falls and Jarrett.

First, she tells me that her brother and his wife, whose main street Zumbro Falls home had water almost up to the first floor ceiling, have purchased a home “way high up on the hill” two miles south of Zumbro Falls. Did you catch that “way high up on the hill” part?

Her dear friend and family, who were living in a hotel and making mortgage payments on an uninhabitable residence, returned to their Hammond home the day after Christmas. “They are so grateful to be back,” Katie writes.

Another resident has moved into a new trailer house on her lot in Hammond. Some 80 percent of the homes and most of the businesses in the community of 230 were flooded.

Katie’s mother-in-law is still shuttling between family members’ homes and hasn’t decided what she will do. Her home of 53 years, two miles down river from Jarrett, had floodwaters flowing out of first floor windows.

Susie Shones, whom I interviewed and who is married to Katie’s husband’s cousin, is now temporarily renting a trailer home above Jarrett. Six feet of floodwaters forced Susie and her husband out of their first Jarrett rental house. Ironically, says Katie, the limestone bluffs surrounding Hammond and Jarrett are among the highest elevation points in Wabasha County.

Businesses along the street where Katie lives are beginning to recover. The bank has reopened. The bar is expected to reopen in March. And the restaurant owner is hard at work remodeling his building.

 

Minnwest Bank in Hammond, by Katie's home, has reopened.

The partially-gutted restaurant interior, photographed on October 10, 2010, is now being renovated.

“OTHER THAN THAT, not much happening in Hammond and the surrounding area due to the weather,” Katie writes. “Hammond continues to look like a ghost town. Every other street light is shut off and the majority of the homes are dark. I keep expecting to see coyotes roaming the streets……”

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

An update from flood-ravaged Hammond & Floodfest 2010 November 12, 2010

WHEN I MET KATIE SHONES a month ago outside her Hammond home across Wabasha County Road 11 from the Zumbro River, she was angry. She was waiting for President Barack Obama to issue a disaster declaration that would begin the process of rebuilding her flood-ravaged community of 230.

Some 80 percent of the homes in her town, and most if not all of the businesses, were damaged by late September floodwaters. She was one of the lucky ones; the water stopped several feet from her front door.

A flood-damaged home and garage in Hammond, photographed in mid-October..

Yet, the impact on her community, on family and friends, left Katie reeling.

We’ve exchanged several e-mails since our mid-October meeting. With Katie’s permission, I am sharing here, in her words, how she and others have been impacted, why she is frustrated and how you can help.

Interestingly enough, Katie begins her first e-mail with a definitive choice of words that truly causes me to pause. She terms the people of southeastern Minnesota “flood survivors,” adding this in parenthesis: (notice I did not say flood victim!).

Right away I ask her to explain why that differentiation is so important.

I prefer the term survivor. The flood is over, it is time to get on with life, move forward and face all the challenges head on. Victim sounds like you are allowing someone or something to take advantage of you. It sounds downtrodden, depressed. I see people of all ages doing what midwesterners do best “pulling themselves up by the bootstraps.”

So who are these people, these strong, strong people whom Katie knows?

My brother’s house is in Zumbro Falls – main street – and had water almost up to the first floor ceiling. They can rebuild if they want providing the first floor is 1.7 ft above the 100 year flood plain. At this point, my brother and his wife will spend the winter at my mom’s and decide what to do in the Spring, as to whether they will raise the existing house up 1.7 ft, rebuild or move to a different home. They did have flood insurance.

My mother-in-law’s home is approximately 2 miles down river from Jarrett. She has lived in that house for 53 years and in that time her house had never once flooded except for this Sept. The flood waters came out of the first floor windows. She did not have flood insurance because she is not in the flood plain. The house is stripped down to the stud walls and she plans on fixing up the house and moving back in sometime this coming year. She has signed up for the free insulation and sheet rock. A son and a son-in-law will do the re-wiring.

For now, Katie’s 75-year-old widowed mother-in-law is bouncing among her five daughters’ homes.

My dear friend and her family have been living in a hotel room since the flood occurred. They still have to make the mortgage payment on their uninhabitable home plus come up with the money for the hotel…….

She details in a follow-up email that her friend’s family has now found a house to rent in Rochester for the winter and will fix up their Hammond home and move back as soon as they can. Three generations lived in that house, which lies in the 500-year flood plain and saw floodwaters rise more than two feet into the first floor.

I can only think that for the trio of flood survivor stories Katie has shared with me, there are hundreds more. She continues:

To be honest with you, I have not talked with many of my former neighbors. I do not know where some of them have moved to. A few Hammondites cannot rebuild because they are in the flood way. Some are walking away because they never want to go through anything like this ever again. I get the feeling the majority of residents will rebuild. Hammond is their home. Some will remodel and others are talking about putting in trailer houses or modular homes.

The exposed side of a restaurant/grocery in Hammond, where a portion of a building once stood. A month ago the ruins lay in a heap in the street.

Katie praises those who have come to the aid of flood survivors.

Many volunteer organizations have come in to the area and have done an amazing job.  People and groups have helped tear down damaged walls and floors, picked up junk and debris, local restaurants and businesses have brought in meals. One church organization is donating insulation and sheet rock to flood damaged homes and the labor to put the materials up!!! Others have come in and power washed basements and walls to prevent black mold.

Volunteers are still needed. Call the Hammond City Hall at (507) 753-2086 and leave a message stating that you are willing to help and what special skills you can offer.

With the exception of winter wear, clothing donations are not needed. Furniture is welcomed, Katie says, adding though that many survivors have no place to store anything.

Monetary donations for flood relief may be directed to:

MinnWest Bank – Rochester, 331 16th Ave NW, Rochester, MN. 55901

People’s State Bank, 100 4th Ave SE, Plainview, MN. 55964

While Katie appreciates the kindness and help of so many, she remains frustrated with the government.

What is so maddening is the government’s response to the homeowners. I have been told that the reason there is so little assistance to the individual is because so few homes (only 604 homes) were affected. That shouldn’t make any difference. A home is a home and these people still need a place to live. Many have moved in with family members. I think the biggest thing people can do is call their elected officials and express outrage at how this entire tragedy has been handled. I truly believe that the average Minnesotan does not realize the extent of devastation in Wabasha County, the hardest hit county during the flood.

THIS WEEKEND YOU CAN JOIN flood relief efforts by attending Floodfest 2010 at Bluff Valley Campground, 61297 390th Ave., Zumbro Falls. Proceeds will benefit those impacted by the southeastern Minnesota flood. The event begins today at 5 p.m with a fish fry and continues until 1 a.m. Floodfest then resumes at 7 a.m. Saturday with a prayer service followed by a pancake breakfast. The weekend is jam-packed with music, a kids’ carnival, sporting activities, a bake sale, silent auction, arts and crafts and more. Click here for more information.

A Zumbro Falls home destroyed by the September flood.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Flood of paper work for Zumbro Falls city hall October 14, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:39 AM
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TALK ABOUT GOVERNMENT paperwork… well, you ought to see what I saw in flood-ravaged Zumbro Falls on Sunday afternoon. Scattered across the lawn and the patio of an uninhabitable home next to the combination fire hall and city hall, sheets and sheets and sheets of paper lay, weighted by stones, drying in the open air.

These documents, these papers (I resisted looking too closely), came from the city office.

Just steps away outside of city hall, which is a corner of the fire station, a woman sorted through stacks and stacks of dried city paperwork anchored by stones on a picnic table belonging to the Mazeppa Lions Club.

My first reaction to viewing this trail of paperwork: How trusting, how very trusting, to expose this government paperwork here, in the open, before the public eye. But that’s small-town Minnesota, where, for the most part, you can trust your neighbor and city hall.

DEAR READERS:

This concludes my series of stories on the aftermath of flooding in Zumbro Falls and Hammond, which were especially hard-hit by late September flooding. Interestingly enough, I had written this post earlier yesterday, before President Barack Obama issued a disaster declaration for 21 Minnesota counties, including my home county of Rice and Wabasha, where the featured towns are located.

As I understand the declaration—and I don’t pretend to know the nuances of how this works—funding will now be available to state and local governments and some non-profit groups in the flood-stricken counties.

Aid for individuals and businesses affected by floodwaters is not included in the declaration. That leaves me wondering about the men and women and families in Zumbro Falls and Hammond, and all of the other impacted communities.

To Tracy, Jackie, Susie and Katie, the four women whom I interviewed (see my previous posts), I encourage you to hold on. You’ve already shown incredible strength. Thank you for allowing me to share your stories and your opinions with the readers of Minnesota Prairie Roots. You are, indeed, strong women.

A building marked as uninhabitable in downtown Zumbro Falls, photographed on October 10.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 
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