Floodwaters Still Soak Many Areas North Idaho Cleaning Up Muck, Pumping Out Giant Puddles
The water is down - but not gone. Neither are the problems.
Nearly two months after floods ravaged the Inland Northwest, North Idaho residents still are dealing with residue left by the currents.
Especially in St. Maries.
“We’re getting life back to normal as quick as we can, but we’re not done,” said Benewah County disaster director George Currier.
About a dozen families in St. Maries still are out of their homes, and at least four houses remain under water, he said.
The city’s secondary water supply - a series of community wells - still is covered in mud, and the airport reopened just last week. This week marks the first time since January that students at the high school have been able to use school toilets.
“One of the sewer lines broke, so we had to cut off the school and put the kids on port-a-potties,” Currier said Friday. “Those things aren’t fun for anybody - particularly teenagers.”
Meanwhile, about 150,000 board feet of lumber from the Potlatch Corp.’s mill outside St. Maries still are scattered throughout back yards in the Riverdale area.
“It’ll probably be the end of the summer before we can get it all picked up,” said Dana Smith, mill supervisor.
Potlatch rented six pumps - at a cost of nearly $16,000 a week - to remove water from the 500-acre area around its mill and homes in that area. The company has pump operators working round-the-clock.
“We operate in a community, so we need to be neighborly and help out,” Smith said.
The pumps have run continuously since late February, pumping more than 2.5 million gallons an hour - more than 2 billion gallons in the past five weeks, Smith said. But the pumping is far from over.
“I don’t know how much water is out there, to tell you the truth,” Smith said.
Patching of one area dike wasn’t completed until Friday, Currier said, and “there’s still quite a puddle of water there.”
Displaced families are living with friends or staying in vacant homes. Benewah County Commissioner Jack Buell put a family in the home of his recently deceased mother.
Other families are busy moving dirt to elevate their homes. While it could cost $8,000 to $35,000 to have county officials do the work, many homeowners are doing it themselves to save money, Currier said.
“There’s still plenty to be done here,” he said.
While St. Maries faces the worst of the mess to clean up, it’s not the only area dealing with the aftermath of flooding.
Cataldo’s Stan Rodwick is trying to live in his house while contractors rebuild the rotted interior. His neighbors, Walter and Joy Reed, are living in an RV beside their destroyed home, which was bought by their insurance company.
Retiree Joy Reed used to supplement her income by taking care of children. Now she refuses because she’s afraid of the germs and metals contamination the swollen Coeur d’Alene River left in her yard.
“You never know what that flood brought,” she said. “There’s no way I’d baby-sit kids around this.”
Besides, Reed said, she won’t be around much longer.
“We’re moving to Osburn on high ground,” she said.
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