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One Year Later: Rebuilding Homes And Lives

May 18, 2012, 9:59 PM by Jon Berg

One Year Later: Rebuilding Homes And Lives

Crews still work diligently along Fairway Drive in Pierre as families try to reorganize their homes and their lives. Some are replacing landscaping, some put up new siding and some have left their homes completely. 

For Joann Lonbaken and her husband, they went through what most every family did along their street and spent many hours building up sandbag walls to protect their home.

"We were lucky because we only have a crawl space but it's not like modern-day crawl spaces; it's mud," Lonbaken said.

While many people in their neighborhood evacuated their homes during the flood, the Lonbaken's stayed behind.

"They would've liked to have us evacuate and my husband said, 'as long as we've got electricity, running water and a sewer, I'm not leaving.'  So we didn't leave," Lonbaken said.

"This had, what, about 26, 28 inches of water in it," homeowner Karon Schaack said.

Meanwhile, just across the street, Schaack wasn't so lucky. After spending nearly all summer and fall out of her home, she is now back home with plenty of work to do.

"I didn't come back until Thanksgiving time.  I was evacuated from June 2 until right before Thanksgiving; 179 days," Schaack said.

Schaack, just like many of those impacted by the flood, had no idea what was ahead of them until just days before the water rose.  She says the generosity of the community saved as much of her house as possible.

"They came in droves, you know, and built sandbag berms around all the houses shoulder high," Schaack said.

"The sump hole over here, which you know ran all the time is dry as a bone down there," Schaack said.

And that means Schaack is able to start rebuilding her basement.  But it comes at an expensive price. Even though she had flood insurance, it didn't cover things such as carpet, sheetrock and paint.

"I did have flood insurance.  The lesson learned is that it probably is a good thing to have but it's very, very basic, you know, infrastructure kinds of things," Schaack said.

And there's work to do outdoors as well. What used to be thick green grass had to be completely replanted.

"Brought in black dirt, got it smoothed down again and seeded and the sprinkler system works again; so we're hopeful we can get some turf started," Schaack said.

Schaack also lost a total of 34 trees and shrubs due to all the moisture that was stored in her yard all summer long.  And Schaack, along with her neighbors, knows life won't be back to normal anytime soon.

"I don't think anyone realizes what kind of an impact it had on you, a person, unless they've gone through it, because people will say to you, 'well, are things getting back to normal now?' Well, I don't know what normal is going to be, because it's an emotional thing too," Lonbaken said.

"Have I experienced a big loss?  You bet.  This isn't going to be the same house or property that my kids grew up in but I'm doing the best I can," Schaack said.

And while this summer may be filled with lots of hard work, people along the Missouri River are just happy that's what they'll be doing instead of piling up sandbags like they were a year ago.

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