The floodwaters had been deep, spilling river water relentlessly over miles of gentle banks. In its wake lay devastation … and broken hearts.
“They said we’d have 24 hours to evacuate, but it was only four,” Tricia Pryor said as she remembered how the Souris River in Minot, N.D., had overtopped its levees back in 2011. “We tried to bring valuables up from our basement to the upstairs, but …” Tricia’s voice trailed at the vivid memory.
Even now, six years hasn’t eased the emotions Tricia and her family feel when they see the flooding in Texas and Florida unfold. The knowledge of what lies ahead for these folks sits heavily on their hearts.
“I have a lot of compassion for not just Houston, but for a lot of the towns that got flooded,” Tricia said, recalling what she faced after being restricted from returning to their inundated home for a month. “My heart goes out to them.”
Tricia knows the flood aftermath is the next nightmare for the victims.
In her hometown when the water receded, what was left behind was unimaginable. Assorted garbage and battered outdoor furniture that had been carried downstream littered the grass; their backyard was still underwater.
When they opened the front door to their ranch-style home, what greeted Tricia, her husband, David, and 11-year-old son Duncan, was almost unbearable.
“When I first walked into our house, it stunk so bad of mold that I threw up. The smell was atrocious,” Tricia said. “The carpet was soaked, the furniture had white mildew powder all over it, and there was mold halfway up the wall. When you opened up the door to our basement, the water was right there.”
After the stress of being crammed into a borrowed fifth-wheeler for 28 days behind a co-worker’s house, what faced them now was sweaty hard work in the middle of summer — and no guarantee they would ever be able to live in their riverside home again.
“Just talking about it digs up so many bad memories, that feeling of utter loss,” Tricia said, a tremor in her voice. “We could see we’d have to gut everything. You couldn’t even keep Tupperware because of mold spores.”
But just when it seemed the little family might drown in despair, a crew of volunteers joined them to lend a hand. Twelve men armed with sledgehammers, wrecking bars and a lot of wherewithal gutted the 3,100 square foot house, working side by side with the Pryors.
“I’ll tell you what, they were a blessing,” Tricia said, thinking back to how the team broke out windows, ripped out sheetrock and ceiling tiles. “They did it in one day, and that was taking out all the stuff that was ruined and had to be separated into piles outside.”
What followed for Tricia and her family was another two months in the RV until a FEMA trailer arrived on their property. Still hopeful they could rebuild, they lived in the cramped space for another seven months.
These days she can smile at that memory.
“Our plans someday had been to have a fifth-wheel or travel-trailer for vacations, but we’ve said ‘Never again!’ ” Tricia said, remembering the FEMA space she compares to the size of a loft. “We can laugh about things now.”
They can also empathize with the distant flood victims who are facing a journey upstream, one that is behind this threesome now. Their own river of difficulty has brought insight and a bit of advice.
“Believe in God, work together, continue to communicate with each other and take it one step at a time,” Tricia said, adding the importance of staying strong, being devoted to each other when tempers flare, and praying – even asking to be on a prayer chain. “It’ll all work out as long you stick together.”
Nowadays, they live in a house far from the flood zone. But a special memory of that disastrous flood sits prominently on a coffee table — an extra kindness from the Moundridge, Kan., volunteer team that labored on their waterlogged home.
“We still have the Bible they all signed,” Tricia said.
And within its pages is a familiar scripture: “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.” Isaiah 43:2a (NLT)
Comfort and a promise … for such a time as this.