Fort Gibson Flood Victims Throw Out Years Of Submerged Memories
FORT GIBSON, Oklahoma - Hundreds of volunteers are out in different areas of Muskogee County helping people with the clean-up process as they prepare to move back home.
A lot of people must completely gut their homes and start over, and many of them don’t have flood insurance.
Donkey Lane in Fort Gibson is filled with several side streets cluttered with piles of unsalvageable items that were submerged in flood water for 12 days.
These piles are filled with things like insulation, sheet rock, furniture and belongings.
Many of the homes in that area were filled to their roof lines in water, and the neighborhood isn’t in the flood plain. Now all these people are left with are the memories shared under these roofs.
Jack Huff, 83, moved into his home in 1993. He says it is hard to watch people carrying his furniture, clothes and personal items out of his home and setting them by the curb waiting to be thrown away.
“It just makes you want to cry all the time,” said Jack Huff.
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The water was up to the roof line on Jack’s home and many of his neighbors’ houses were also submerged. Now everything they own has to be thrown away.
“To see where all the mold and stuff was and how high the water got is really unfathomable,” said Jack’s daughter-in-law, Christina Sprague.
There are some things Jack was able to save, like blankets, fishing boats, and a few pieces of his late wife’s china that she collected at yard sales.
“I’d say 'do you want to go to a yard sale,'” said Huff talking about his late wife. He says she would shake her head yes because she couldn’t talk. She had a stroke more than 10 years ago before passing away in 2015.
Now a lot of her items are scattered on the side of the road along with Jack’s.
“He’s sad, depressed, then he’s okay, then he gets sad again,” said Sprague.
Jack’s family, along with several volunteer organizations, are working to gut his home so they can start to rebuild. The volunteer groups are making their way down the street helping each family carry out items then working to help them tear down the walls filled with water and mold.
County officials have been placing dumpsters around neighborhoods and are continuously loading dump trucks to help.
“We had already pretty much cleaned out once, and now you’re starting to see a second round buildup,” said Muskogee County District One Commissioner, Ken Doke.
Doke says there’s more than 600 addresses of homes and businesses in the county that need help cleaning up. But it’s going to take more than federal financial assistance to help get them back to normal.
“People have stepped up in a big way, and it’s touching to see that so many people actually care and will do what it takes to take care of people like this,” said Doke.
The volunteer organizations are coming from all over the country to help. Some groups are from Texas, Missouri and even California.
Many of the people impacted didn’t have flood insurance so they are relying on federal assistance and volunteer groups to help them get back on their feet, one step at a time.
“I think that’s the only way we will get there is have everyone do what they can do and then that all adds up to hopefully where will we be at the end which is getting people back in their homes, back to work, back to normal again,” said Doke.
But even though Jack’s entire life is on his front curb, he has his family, neighbors and hundreds of volunteers working to help get him back home.
“We’re doing the best we can to help him get through,” said Sprague.
Muskogee County will keep using their trucks to help with cleanup.
Residents just must pile debris at the curb, so workers can take it away.