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Pacific Junction Clean-up, Recovery Begin

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Many Homes Were Flooded With Muddy Water For Over A Month

By The Staff

After being forced to stay of out of their flooded community for more than a month, Pacific Junction residents were finally allowed to return to their homes last week to assess damage and begin an overwhelming clean-up process.

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“It was bad,” Terry Parham, Sr., said as he gave an account of the re-entry into his family’s home on the west side of Pacific Junction. “It’s what I thought it’d be. There was water everywhere. There’s no way to describe how bad it is because you know it’s going to be bad.”

Parham, who was given the green light to re-enter his home on Tuesday, April 16, estimated that Missouri River floodwater climbed as high as 9 feet in the split-entry house, submerging the basement and much of the main floor.
Parham, who has lived in the house since 1979, was being assisted with the clean-up of his home by volunteers from the non-profit Team Rubicon group.

With the help of Team Rubicon, Parham was able to salvage his large beer stein collection and a Bible that had been in his family for over 100 years.

“They didn’t have to do that,” Parham said. “They could have just pulled everything out and just thrown it away. They went through stuff, they showed me what they pulled out and cleaned stuff up. That’s the real story, here. It’s not me. I’m going to rebuild my house. The real story is them (volunteers from Team Rubicon). They’re out here helping people, they’re all over. Everybody is helping each other. That’s the real story.”

Team Rubicon is one of several non-profit agencies that have assisted with flood clean-up in the Pacific Junction area. Volunteers from the same organization helped John O’Connor and his wife, Kim, remove flooded debris from their home.
“These guys are doing a great job helping us,” O’Connor said. “This is 25 years of my life in this (debris).”

Like every other home in Pacific Junction, the damage to O’Connor’s house was extensive.

“Everything on the lower level was killed,” he said. “Thankfully, Kim put all of our photos and albums on the second floor. The second floor was untouched.”

O’Connor noted that  he gained some “railroad debris” he didn’t own before the flood. He said a person doesn’t appreciate their belongings until they’re lost.

“The simple things you miss most, like the coffee maker and the mower,” he said.

Pacific Junction was evacuated on March 17. O’Connor said he sat in his driveway watching the water come in that evening until it reached about the 8-inch level and was starting to flow rapidly. That’s when he and his wife left town.
John and Kim O’Connor have owned their home since 1993. In 2011, they removed many of their belongings and prepared to evacuate when the Missouri River started to flood west of Pacific Junction. That year, however the water didn’t reach the city. Pacific Junction residents  didn’t expect the water to penetrate the city this time either.

“In 2011, I moved a lot of stuff out and we had our cars loaded,” O’Connor said. “We didn’t think it was going to come this time.”

O’Connor said the water that infiltrated his home was powerful enough to topple a heavy refrigerator in the kitchen.

“It (water) picked it up and turned it sideways on the counter,” he said. “I couldn’t even pick that thing up with wheels.”

There are 219 houses and buildings in the city of Pacific Junction, all sustaining damage in the flood. Representatives of the Iowa Task Force did visual (exterior) inspections of all buildings last week. Their findings and recommendations (not legally binding) were documented.

On Monday, Glenwood Municipal Utilities  (GMU) announced that it had restored water service to Pacific Junction for clean-up purposes only. A boil order for the water was put into effect and residents were told to refrain from using drains and toilets because the city’s sanitary sewer system was not operational. GMU is working to restore sanitary sewer to all areas of Pacific Junction.

In addition to being displaced from their homes, some Pacific Junction residents have been victimized by looters, who have entered flooded properties and stolen tools, machinery, automotive parts, fixtures and other items. Mills County Sheriff Gene Goos said the community is being patrolled and policed by law enforcement officers from multiple agencies, including the sheriff’s office and Iowa State Patrol, but criminals have found their way into the community, some driving on unauthorized roads and some simply walking in. The only authorized entry point into the city is from the south on 195th Street. Goos said there have been a handful of arrests made as a result of items being stolen from flood-damaged homes in and around Pacific Junction.

Last week, the Pacific Junction City Council established curb-side collection guidelines for flood-damaged debris. Discarded materials can be placed at the curb for pick-up, but must be sorted in the following categories:

Household Hazardous Waste – paints, solvents, cleaners, household chemicals, lawn and garden chemicals.

White and Electronic Goods – appliances, TVs, computers, etc.

Metals – furniture, filing cabinets, etc.

Garbage – mattresses, wood, plastic furniture, etc.

Vegetation – corn stalks, wood, limbs, etc.

The city’s clean-up guidelines also stipulate “absolutely no burning of debris of any kind will be allowed.” The community has not been deemed safe from gas products, fumes and flammable materials.
Mills County Public Health Administrator Sheri Bowen said two non-profit agencies are still in the area this week to assist with flood clean-up. Pacific Junction residents needing assistance should call Team Rubicon at 310-981-8887 or Illinois Southern Baptists at 618-980-1954.