Stillwater residents whose homes flooded during May’s heavy rains have begun the long process of recovering from their losses.
Destruction is a sign of progress in the early days, when a dumpster in the driveway marks a home being relieved of its waterlogged and moldy walls, cabinets and floors.
Three homes in the 500 block of W. 12th Avenue that were originally built by the City of Stillwater as part of an affordable housing initiative had several inches of floodwater in them despite being built three feet off the ground. The homes sit across the street from Southern Woods Park in an area that has long been known for flooding.
A crew from Land Run Construction was replacing sheetrock at one of the homes Monday. They said moldy sheetrock and insulation on the bottom half of the wall had to be removed throughout the house.
The workers said the owner told them floodwaters rose to about 6 inches from the top of the 4-foot chain link fence surrounding the backyard.
A detached deck that serves as a back porch for the house floated away and was deposited at the rear property line, Habib Boksmati said.
Lisa Lewis and Dinah Cox had only been living in their home on Wicklow Street for about six months when it flooded. Cox said they got flood insurance when they bought the house because it sits in a 100-year flood plain but she didn’t really think they would ever need to use it.
The day before they were evacuated through rising water by the fire department she had been more worried about the possibility of tornadoes. When she and Lewis went to bed that night, they thought the danger had passed, but in the middle of the night, a flood alert delivered via their cell phones woke them. When they looked outside and saw the rising water, they knew they were in trouble.
Since the floodwaters receded, their home has been taken to the studs and the subfloor has been removed. The structure had to be treated with an anti-microbial chemical and dehumidifiers ran for weeks to dry everything out.
Cox said it took 5-6 large dumpsters to haul away all the building materials stripped from their home and the furniture and personal possessions that were damaged.
They won’t receive anything from their regular homeowner’s insurance policy. Cox says she thought they might have at least been some coverage for loss of use, which would have helped because they have been living in a pet-friendly, extended stay hotel for weeks.
“Now I really know what loss of use is,” she said.
It will probably be nine months before they get moved back into their home. The property has a small guest house that they plan to focus on repairing first so they can live in it while work is happening on the main house.
Flood insurance has a fairly high deductible and is divided into three categories of losses: Personal property, other structures and the main structure, she said. In addition to the damage to their home, the women lost about half their furniture and both their cars.
Cox estimates it will cost about $175,000 to repair and replace everything, including the contents of their home. She’s still processing the loss of some things, like her childhood writings, that aren’t valuable to anyone but her and can never be replaced.
Cox and Lewis have applied for FEMA assistance to fill the gaps that flood insurance doesn’t cover. They’ll receive some compensation for their loss of use and may be eligible for additional assistance, depending on final costs.
Right now, they’re just waiting to see how the estimates come in.
“We’re at an in-between place right now,” Cox said. “The flood mitigation people are done and the contractors have yet to start.”