Survivors regroup in flood's aftermathby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
For thousands of households in southeastern Minnesota, Monday was a day to begin regrouping following torrential rains over the weekend that caused flash flood emergencies in several communities.
Winona, Minn. — Sitting on a folding chair outside a makeshift Red Cross shelter in the hills above Winona, Alana Wilson of Minnesota City struggles unsuccessfully to hold back tears. A building overhang is protecting her from the light rain.
She's on a cell phone and she's just found out her two cats have been rescued and are being cared for at the Humane Society.
Finally some good news for Wilson and her two daughters who quite literally find themselves with nothing.
"We don't have a house. We lost our vehicles... everything," she says.
Wilson and her kids are staying at her boss's home in Winona. She says she wishes she had a plan.
"I just need somebody to take me by the hand and tell me what to do next. I don't know," she says.
Minute-by-minute is the way many flood victims are approaching their future.
Robert Sperl, 22, lived in Stockton with his girlfriend Kim Konkel, 20. The two were at the Red Cross shelter to get their names in the data base so people will know they're OK. Stockton, a town of about 800, sits about 10 miles southwest of Winona.
Sperl says he and his girlfriend have been back to Stockton. The town's a mess, they say. They won't be returning to their house anytime soon to retrieve what personal belongings they can recover.
"When we got there all it was was just a bunch of mud. It kind of receded and everything by the time we got there, and it just left all of the mud behind and all the water and stuff like that," Sperl says.
Kim Konkel says she lost all of her four-month-old daughter's clothing, but someone at the Holiday Inn helped gather some items for the time being.
"We need money, food, and clothes; that's about it," she says.
Although flood damage is widespread throughout southeastern Minnesota, larger communities like Winona did not get hit as hard as many of the smaller towns, like Stockton. Flood victims have sought refuge in Winona at shelters and at the city's hotels.
Outside the Day's Inn, the Bambenek family -- also from Stockton -- made plans for the day. Pete and Colleen and their adult kids lost not only their home, but two family businesses,
Colleen is rallying the family to get going right away with the clean-up
"Minute-by-minute," she says. "Right now we emptied every amount of money we have out of our bank to be able to pay for a hotel room for the night. We're going to go to Red Cross to see what they've got to offer. We went to the insurance company and we found out we're not covered on certain things."
The mess aside, the Bambeneks say they don't know if their home remains structurally sound. Still, given what they went through on Saturday night and early Sunday morning, they're thankful to be even here.
When the flood was rising to its height, they were trying to get out of Stockton for safer ground. Colleen Bambenek says her family became trapped on the road.
"There was water on both sides," she says. "It started to come over. Trees were coming down. We saw one gentleman get hit by a tree. There's all kinds of feeling you have. We're excited that we're all alive because we went through quite a thing that night."
- All Things Considered, 08/20/2007, 5:35 p.m.