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Flood Evacuees Trying To Make Due In Disaster

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By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

Eldon Kammerer has lived in Pacific Junction for nearly five decades.

He’s never seen anything like the flooding that overtook his Pacific Junction home and forced his sudden evacuation March 16.

“The worst in history, they tell me,” Kammerer said.

Kammerer, 89, had little warning. He’s lived by himself since his wife of 62-years passed away in 2017. The order came Saturday that he, along with dozens of his west Pacific Junction neighbors, were part of a mandatory evacuation.
“I didn’t get all my stuff,” he said. “I had to leave pretty much everything behind.”

Kammerer’s story is a common one as the nearly 500 people displaced by the historic flooding that has ravaged western Mills County as well as much of western Iowa and eastern Nebraska cope with the loss of their homes and property.

The timing, the destructive path and the unknowns of what was coming and what will remain when they return after the flooding continues to weigh on the minds of those displaced.

Tesha Fritz, her husband Clayton, their two children, 8 and 11, three dogs and two cats were evacuated from their home on Depot Street in Pacific Junction on March 17.

They knew the waters were rising and evacuation was a possibility but their street was dry when a knock came on the door.

The Fritzes were ready – they’d spent much of the day packing a trailer with their belongings – but you’re never prepared to leave your home not knowing when you’ll be back.

When the family drove away, they didn’t see any water on the streets or close to their home. Two hours later, the house was sitting in two feet of water.

Fritz recently saw photos of the main street area in Pacific Junction and the rental home she and her family moved into just three months ago.

She estimates it’s in eight feet of water.

“It’s hard to see,” Fritz said, fighting back tears. “There’s really nothing in there of importance but it’s still our home. It sucks.”

The Fritzes have been staying with family in Glenwood. The four bedroom home hosting 15 people, eight dogs and three cats now.

“It’s cramped, but luckily we’re a close knit family,” she said. “We’re always together, doing stuff, going out, holidays so it’s not bad. We’ve all lived in the house at one time or another anyway so we’re used to it.”

The uncertainty is perhaps the hardest part.

“I don’t know when this is going to be over just to know what the damage is,” Fritz said. “I don’t know how long any of this will take. I don’t know anything at all. My next step is very unclear. I realized today that maybe it will just be getting a new space and just starting building back up everything we lost.”

Kammerer didn’t lose everything. He’s trying to find the bright spots where he can as he settles in to staying with his daughter in Glenwood.

He admitted he doesn’t get around as well as he used to, but he still drives and he walks with a cane when not using his mobility scooter.

When he was suddenly forced out of his home by the flood, Kammerer grabbed just a few things and wheeled his scooter out to his little pickup.

But he couldn’t get the winch to work to load the scooter in the pickup bed. He was contemplating leaving the expensive mobility device behind when fate intervened.

“A guy came along and asked how heavy it is,” Kammerer said. “I said, ‘300 pounds’ and he said, ‘That’s no problem, I can put that in for you.’”

The man then loaded the scooter into the back of Kammerer’s truck.

“It fit right in,” he said.

The stranger left before Kammerer could get his name.

The only bad news Kammerer could see was forgetting to grab the charger.

Kammerer said the VA is in the process of replacing it.

“This is the worst flooding I’ve ever seen. I don’t know what people are going to do.”