Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Year Later

A year ago Memorial Day weekend I stood outside my parents’ house and listened to Dad tell us a flood was coming, and it was going to be huge, bigger than anything in our recent history.  I was here for the Flood of ’93, but other than knowing that my new-Sheriff-Dad was dealing with crazy hours and stress, my 15-year-old self wasn’t tremendously affected.  Last year, I heard Dad’s words but didn’t fully comprehend what it would mean to our county and our region.
I-29, Shelton Fireworks - Looking West from Bluffs - June 27, 2011
Looking West on Hwy 136 - June 27, 2011
It was indeed huge.  We were flooded in some instances for 4 months.  To the North, the Interstate was closed. Traffic was re-routed through secondary highways, through towns that weren’t remotely prepared for that kind of volume.  To the West lies the Missouri river, and obviously, there was no way to cross.  Hosts of families living on this side of the river had someone in their household who worked on the other side.  Most stayed apart from their families through the week and came home on weekends.  Others made the multiple-hour commute every day so that they could see their kids.  Families who lived on the bottoms were displaced for months.

Last summer and early fall, all I felt was gloom and doom and hopelessness.  I sat in shocked sadness, watching all that cropland sit underwater.  I saw businesses lay off employees and leave.  I would look through my office’s ‘all about Atchison County’ website, and I kept landing on the page where we brag about everything we have access to (barge, interstate, rail, nearby airports) that were essentially eliminated during the flood.  I was worried about what we would look like on the other side of this thing…whenever that happened.

Then, little by little, week by week, things started to change.  The importance of our existing local businesses became even more important.  My office did a little “Shop Local, we’re all in this together!” campaign, something that we created because we were desperate to do something, anything, to help.  I don’t know if it made a huge difference in sales taxes or not, but it was a reminder sign in the newspapers and in stores all over the county we are responsible for our communities and for supporting each other. 
I-29, Shelton Fireworks - Looking West from Bluffs - June 14, 2012
Roads opened up and repairs began.  Construction on our levees and roads brought newcomers to our county who are still shopping, eating, and staying here.  Since early this year, a massive wholesale water construction project has been underway, bringing even more visitors and workers here.
Looking West on Hwy 136 - June 14, 2012
Businesses that had temporarily closed have reopened and others have been able to bring their regular numbers of employees back on board.  Most all of our businesses were able to persevere, and while last year will not go down in the books as an easy or profitable one, they made it.  A few, like the campground, have not reopened yet due to the severity of the damage, but they are now starting their long road of recovery.

A year later, there’s good news to be found if you look around.  The vast majority of families who were displaced during the flood chose to relocate elsewhere in the county.  The mild winter we experienced allowed road and levee repairs to start much sooner than anticipated.  While some farmers continue to deal with significant sand issues on their land, many have planted and are back in their fields.  The tax base has held, far better than I anticipated.  And regardless of how people feel about the Corps, they have done a tremendous job restoring our levees.

The bottom line in all this is, we ‘made it’ this far largely because of the kind of people we are here.  We pull together in catastrophe.  We help our neighbors.  We work together to get things done.  I’ve said it before and I’ll surely say it again, but in good times and in bad, I am so proud to be a part of this county and these people.  

No comments:

Post a Comment