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It had rained consistently for most of April, May & June. My husband, who works in construction, had barely worked any at all in April & May & none in June due to the rain & mud. He is the sole source of income for our family, which includes 3 kids ages 13, 10, & 4. I was disabled in an auto accident in '02 when 3 months pregnant & struck from behind by a tractor-trailor that mangled my spine & left me with chronic daily pain & unable to work. I now draw Social Security Disability in the amount of $550 per month which is equal to less than 1 weeks paycheck I used to earn when I could work.
So, we were already in a dire financial situation with no income coming in due to the weather. Then, on June 29, when the water at our nearby creek began to rise, we started to worry. Early on June 30 my 70 yr old mother left the property because it was obvious we were going to be "flooded in" & considering her age & health issues she did not want to be trapped on the property. I say flooded in because we have been on that same rural property for 36 yrs & been thru several floods. In 1976 & 1986 we were "flooded in", which to us means that we should go buy groceries & supplies because we could possibly be trapped there for several days or even weeks.
I did what I always did to prepare for this. I went & bought groceries, medicines, & household supplies that would get us through the next couple weeks if necessary. Then all we could do is sit & watch the water rise. On July 1 we took lawn chairs to the waters edge, which was this time starting up our 1/4 mile drive. The kids threw sticks & rocks & tried to scoop up & save some of the drowning lizards, salamanders, & bugs & things struggling by. Not knowing that I had a stick lying at the water's edge, & was watching the clock to see how fast it was rising. I had to move my chair back....several times.
By nightfall the water was all the way up our 1/4 mile drive & we knew what was going to happen, we just didn't know what to do. We had been denying all along that it could happen to us. This is something that happens to other people, that we watch on the news & talk about how terrible it is. But, do you really know how terrible it is? We didn't. But we do now. The water was now within just a few yards of our homes. There was no way to get out or get any of our things out, so all we could do is start to put things up high. We gathered a Hefty Bag of clothes for everyone, tied it up tight, & put it by the front door. My husband went out & made 10 marks on the side of the house each 1 inch apart. We tried to keep the evening as normal as possible for the kids...have supper, watch TV, get showers & get ready for bed. But they sensed the tension & somehow they just "knew". The marks on the side of the house were now gone.
By bedtime we were too scared to put them to bed. We all stayed in the living room together. My youngest brother lived next door with my mother & my oldest brother & wife lived on over on the same property & we all spent the evening going in & out on our porches checking the water level & shouting to each other what we should do & waiting & hoping that it wouldn't make it into the houses. My other brother who lived outside of the flood area brought his boat & left it out on the road. My youngest brother canoed out to get it. We lost our phones. By 3 a.m. the hoping was useless. The water started coming into my oldest brother's house. We had to cut the electricity. By 5 a.m., into my mother's house, & by 7 a.m. into our house. We dressed the kids & went past the water coming into the air vents in our floor,out onto the porch. The water had a distinct rainbow sheen on it & the air was thick with the smell of crude oil. That's when we learned of the Coffeyville Resources Oilspill. We saw my brother & sister-in-law getting boated out. We waited for our turn. The boat came & we set a chair by the 42 inch porch rail & stepped right over it on to the boat with our 1 Hefty Bag of clothes. No more knowing now than yesterday where to go or what to do.
We made it through the stinking rainbow lake that used to be our yards, homes, & field. On the boat ride to safety we were up around the middles of the giant trees we used to look up to. There were lizards, bugs, turtles, even raccoons & oppossums & armadillos struggling to get out of the rising water swirling with crude, flooded out of their homes & not knowing any more than us where to go. We made it out to the road where there were trucks waiting. Family & friends there to give people rides to where ever they were going. People standing around talking about what to do now. People going back to save the pets. Boatloads of howling dogs & squealing cats. Have you ever heard a dog "cry"? Or seen a cat in a flood? Some of the pets were impossible to reach & drowned. My mother's cat was found after it was all over & the water had receeded, under the bed, up inside the box springs, hanging on for dear life. All we could do is dump the boatload of dogs at the road where we were saved because there was nowhere else to take them & pour out a bag of food & pan of fresh water, because even though there was PLENTY of water, it was contaminated by oil, sewer & who knows what other contaminates.