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Flooded-out Families Camp, Wait

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Article written by Andrew J. Nelson for the Omaha World-Herald.

WAUBONSIE STATE PARK, Iowa — Debbie Boyd married her husband, Chris, last fall at this scenic bluff overlooking neighbors’ farm fields and roads. But what she sees from here now no longer looks like home.

Eight miles away and barely visible through the haze is her empty, flooded town of Percival, where water laps against homes, washes away driveways and grows mold on the walls like hair. To the south and just out of sight are her campsite neighbors’ homes in Hamburg, with only an inner levee between deluge and the southern part of town.

Around the valley, Missouri River floodwaters spread like a watery tableau.

” ‘It’ll be all right.’ I just tell myself that. ‘It’ll be all right,’ ” Debbie Boyd said. “I don’t really go up there and look any more.”

The Boyds are one of 11 families from flooded Percival and flood-threatened Hamburg making temporary homes at this Loess Hills state park.

The 29 campers here lived before in Depression-era farmhouses and century-old apartment homes. They live now in fifth-wheel travel trailers and recreational vehicles.

The majority moved here in early June, as officials up and down the valley issued evacuation orders. Some, like Charlie and Patti Bohlen of rural Percival, arrived later.

“This is either Hamburg North or Percival East — it depends on which part you’re in,” said Curt Boyd, Debbie’s brother-in-law.

The camp is surrounded by trees, their temporary homes a few feet apart, cars and sport utility vehicles crammed onto grass. Outside, children pedal around on bikes. Inside, adults worry about the future.

When will they be able to return home? What will they find when they get home? How much work will their properties require? What kind of regulatory hoops await?

The circumstances here are shared by others at other campgrounds along the Missouri. On Thursday evenings, 40 to 90 evacuees from both sides of the river get together for dinner at First Presbyterian Church of Nebraska City.


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