Derri Strauch, left, and Deborah Pack, right, a family from Michigan, talk about the damage done to their home. (Faye Schneider/ ClickOnDetroit)
A 1-year-old now needs a hand. Fourteen workers remain on the job repairing damage to the foundation of a six-metre high dam that broke and flooded homes in rural northeast Michigan.
Deborah Pack and her family went to bed one year ago on May 19, 2017, wondering what had happened. The two men at work, husband and wife, wanted to stick together.
That’s when three magnitude 8.3 tremors struck on the ground at Stone Lake Dam.
Deborah “just laid down and cried,” said husband Kevin Pack. He was on his knees when he heard a blast. He couldn’t feel his hand.
“Moments later,” Becky recalled, “I could feel a weird heave up on the inside of the door.” She grabbed the baby and made her way upstairs. The couch shook from the weight of the debris. A part of the roof caught on a beam and a window shattered, but not the baby. But the toddler stood tall, still cooing. “She will be with us until all is all right,” Becky said.
Firefighters were called to remove the baby from the house because there was no way she was staying with friends, Becky said. So they moved her to a hotel. Afterward, the parents took the little girl home with their other three kids. They returned to the place Sunday, May 20, only to find that the yard was dry. Becky said the water level there was high enough for her to be submerged. The family could have lost everything in that house.
“We are a very close family. I’m sure this one could have been very similar,” Becky said. “This will hurt for the rest of our lives.”
About 20 acres of swampy dirt has been scooped out for its cleanup, and the entire place can eventually be rebuilt, according to Kraemer Drainage Co. spokesperson Johanna Mann. However, the home is likely to need about half of the funds needed for building.
Mann said an estimated 5,000 square metres of dirt has been excavated so far. Much of it will be cleaned up and refilled. Some will take six months to complete. In addition, the company is raising money to build a second large pond in the area. She said if customers decide to contribute money on the GoFundMe page set up, the campaign will be able to move forward.
At least 200 engineers from around the country and 40 miles away are making repairs to the dam, the company said. The goal is to have it operating by mid-June.
“We’re not trying to beat anybody,” Mann said. “We’re just trying to get ahead of the curve.”
Without a strong foundation, Mississippi River hydropower – which supports about 30 per cent of the supply of the Great Lakes – can’t keep up with rising consumption. When the dam broke, numerous homes flooded. It took two days to recover the river floor. Eventually, the hill on which the dam rests was engulfed in water.
Mann said the dam was damaged by a flood loss of water, but the backside of the structure was not. That was in April, when the waters receded.
The stability of the dam, Mann said, should mean it would remain intact for the next few years.
“With the water receding that’s very dangerous,” Mann said.
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