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Flood survivors hope to be home for Christmas

Volunteers help Looneys get their damaged house back in livable condition

Staff writer

Flood survivors Terry and Loretta Looney, both 51, are hoping to be back in their home on Christmas Day.

Their house at 2299 140th Rd., Florence, was inundated with more than three feet of water June 5 after water was released from Marion Reservoir.

They are planning a Christmas get together with their family Saturday.

“We usually make Christmas a big thing, but we can’t do it this year,” Loretta said. “We have dumped everything into that house.”

The house is near the Cottonwood River, which in the past has overflowed its banks into the Looneys’ yard, but June’s flooding took them by surprise.

Loretta said it usually took seven hours for the water to rise, and it was not up yet at 2:30 a.m., so they went to bed. They woke at 4:45 a.m. to the sound of their dog paddling in water around their bed.

Terry tried to go to the barn to get the tractor, but the current was so strong that he could not get there. They went up to the second floor and called for help. Their son, Dustin, who is a Marion city firefighter, came out with a brush truck and rescued them from a porch roof they climbed onto by crawling out a window.

At 7 p.m., there was a foot of water in the house.

When they returned the next day, they found that floodwater had caused their sewer pond to overflow and had run through the horse lots.

“You can’t know what flood mud smells like until you experience it,” Loretta said. “It smells like raw sewage.”

They lost almost everything on the ground floor, including clothes and shoes.

“I went to work in sandals,” Loretta said.

She works at The Cedars Retirement Home in McPherson. Terry works at Cardie Oil Tire Repair in Marion.

All of their hay bales floated away, forcing them to give away their horses. They also lost two Ford Rangers and a Ford flatbed truck and still have a Chevy pickup that has electrical problems.

“We’re down to one vehicle,” Loretta said.

They moved into a rental house they owned in Marion that happened to be vacant. They had to furnish the house with used appliances and furniture.

“We lost rental money and we are paying utilities on two places,” Loretta said.

The Looneys had no insurance. After gutting the house, they and volunteers have been working to get it back to livable condition. Loretta’s son, Brandon Crooks, brought large fans from Galva to dry things out.

Christian Pedersen enlisted the help of Marion Christian Church, and he and Keith and Morgan Ottensmeier helped her for three months.

The Building Center donated Sheetrock to replace the walls, and Troy Dawson of Florence donated windows and doors and installed them.

The propane tank that broke loose and floated away in the flood was restored and new gas lines installed.

Hardwood floors were sanded and given a brilliant, polyurethane finish.

The house now is insulated, has several widened doorways for a more open look, and sliding doors have been installed in the dining room.

Loretta is happy that the U.S. Corps of Engineers has instituted a new policy to notify homeowners downstream from the reservoir when water is released.

An emergency notification service used in Marion County, Nixle, now sends email or text messages to residents who subscribe on the county’s web site.

Loretta said she turned on the electric water heater Thursday, and it was working, making it possible for them to return by Christmas.

Christian Pedersen and Brett Voth were working on the bathroom Friday.

Much remains to be done after the Looneys move back home. The kitchen has no lower kitchen cabinets. Loretta plans to rebuild them.

“It will be tough to live without a kitchen sink for a while,” she said, “but Terry is looking forward to the peace and quiet.”

She said she could not begin to name all of the people who have donated time and money to help them. At least $2,700 was provided through fundraising efforts of family and friends. A GoFundMe page has been set up on the couple’s behalf.

Loretta figures it will take another $3,000 to finish the restoration.

She is thankful for all those who have prayed for them and expressed concern.

One resident at the nursing home has been asking her every day if she has moved back home yet. He wants to know what she has done each day.

“I think he keeps me going,” she said. “I’ve got to have something to tell him every day.

“If it weren’t for all the donations, we wouldn’t have had a chance to get back. Living in town is just not home. I am thankful we were OK and that we had the opportunity to move back.”

Last modified Dec. 24, 2019

 

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