Waterville, Minn. neighbors face long road to recovery as floodwaters recede

One by one, volunteers carried buckets of mud from Margie Jacobson’s basement, pouring it on a pile in the front yard of her Waterville home.

Her foundation gave way during flooding two and a half weeks ago.  She was wrapping up a vacation to England and could only watch the efforts to save her home remotely.

"Awesome neighbors and volunteers," she said.  "I mean, I couldn’t believe how many people were here to help sandbag. I could see them on my security camera. I couldn’t tell who they were."

The waters have receded slowly, maybe three feet or so over the past week and a half.  Some homeowners began the clean-up last week.  Some, like Margie, can only now just begin.  Others still wait.

"Oh, I bet you there’s probably 10,000 here!" said Lila Bongers with a laugh, as she stared at the giant wall of sandbags that still surrounded her home.

The water is still mostly surrounding it, too, but has dropped to the point where they can finally now pull into their driveway.

The flood reached near the top of that three to four-foot wall, the pressure pushing it about two feet toward the house.  But in the end, they held, and only the garage flooded.

"My one freezer was floating, but they let that dry out, plugged it back in and it started working!"

Salvation Army and Red Cross teams remain in Waterville to help out.  A couple dozen volunteers from Canada from "Samaritan’s Purse" are now helping out, too, with more arriving in the coming days.

Homeowners who’ve been able to begin cleanup where the flood has gone away, have been hauling sandbags and ruined belongings to the public works facility where debris can be dumped.

But some homes, nearest the two lakes in town, still have water that must drop further before they can begin.

And the city is dealing with a broken water main that has some of those homes without running water and has also had to wait for water to recede to find and fix the break.

Margie Jacobson, once her basement is cleared of muck, then must deal with the ruined furnace, electrical system, and water heater the floods destroyed.

"This isn’t a small fix," she said. "It’s going to be months."

She maintains an amazingly optimistic outlook, thankful there was no loss of life.

She’s also patient, because like many here, she didn’t carry flood insurance.  State and federal aid will help, but at this point, it’s uncertain when that will happen.

"Right now I’m waiting on FEMA. I understand it’s a wait, but it’s what I got."