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Flood Stories from Survivors

Floods can be devastating natural disasters that deeply impact communities and families. On this page, we share compelling firsthand stories from flood survivors in your community. Through their powerful testimonies and reflections, we gain perspective on how flooding affects real people in profound ways. These personal accounts put a human face on flood events while illustrating the harsh realities of living through a flood’s destruction and aftermath. These stories also highlight preparedness, resilience, community, and the will to rebuild.

Learning the Hard Way

Lisa Gavin scrambled through her home with garbage bags on June 12, 2008, throwing in the things she thought she and her 7-year-old son would need for their temporary living arrangements. She also looked for items she most wanted to save. She didn’t have time to think it through. Her home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was flooding, and she had never planned for it. “It was not even on my radar that this could happen,” Lisa says. When she purchased the house seven years earlier, the realtors had laughed off a question about the potential for flooding. Her home is a mile and a half from the river, they noted. Even during the devastating Iowa floods of 1993, they said, only a small amount of water seeped into the house. The location was classified as low risk for flooding. “It was not even on my radar that this could happen.” Like many people, Lisa did not realize that low risk does not mean no risk. In June 2008 — after a wet fall, snowy winter, and wet spring — heavy rains caused the worst flooding in the city’s history. By June 12, the Cedar River was already 17 feet above…

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After the Flood, a Lifesaver

The flooding at Nina Wallis’ home in Kingston, Oklahoma, in May 2015 could not have come at a worse time. Her husband had been living in their other home in Texas but planned to soon retire and join his wife at their residence overlooking Lake Texoma. His death less than three months before the flooding left Nina, then 65, in shock. It also left her in bad shape financially. When the flood came, waters topped the Lake Texoma spillway for the fourth time in 58 years and poured into her community. At her home, it almost reached her windowsill. A few weeks later, a storm caused her house to flood again and broke windows and patio doors. Fortunately, many organizations and people came to her aid: The American Red Cross visited several times, providing cleanup kits and water. Neighbors supplied other equipment she could use for the cleanup. Baptist church volunteers gutted the damaged part of the house and supplied her with new doors. The county supplied dumpsters and hauled away the debris and other discarded items. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) arrived to talk to residents about their eligibility for financial assistance. Nina later received $22,000 in FEMA disaster relief aid…

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When Resiliency is Not Enough

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, resident Lisa Gavin always took care of things on her own. “I’ve never been in a position where I had to ask people for help,” says Lisa, an Iowa native who purchased her Cedar Rapids home in 2001. Then came the June 2008 flooding in Cedar Rapids. It damaged more than 5,000 homes in the area, including the one occupied by Lisa and her 7-year-old son. That is when she discovered that support from her community would be crucial to their recovery. The first thing they needed was emotional support. Lisa and her neighbors cried on each other’s shoulders and offered encouragement. Later, after some time had passed, they confided in each other about the anxiety they felt whenever the area experienced heavy rain. Neighbors also provided help in other ways. People in homes with power let neighbors run extension cords to use the electricity. Lisa borrowed a neighbor’s generator to run equipment that removed water from her house. Another neighbor shared hot water with everyone who needed it. Lisa, in turn, let neighbors use her washer and dryer once power was restored in her home and she had replaced the appliances. Getting back to a normal…

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