A Year After Dramatic Campground Flooding
Jerry and Kay Ewen vividly recall wading through rushing hip- to chest-deep Whitewater River water, hand-in-hand with two rescuers, to escape their flooded motorhome in August 2007.
The terror of that night at Lazy-D Campground near Elba, Minn., will never leave them. "The current was so strong, we were just shuffling along," Jerry Ewen said.
But there are other memories of the campground – many years of good times, friends, campfires, swimming and fishing, according to the Post-Bulletin, Rochester, Minn.
Those memories proved more powerful than the fear.
The Rochester couple has returned.
They lost their motorhome in the flood, the worst in recorded history in that area, but have a new travel trailer. They've moved across a road but that's about all.
Jerry Ewen has no doubts, no fears, about coming back.
His wife, however, hesitated. "It was a little scary," she said. "I was in shock – this is a 500-year flood."
But she said that in the end, "I love it down here."
Though he has no fears, her husband said he will be more cautious during future heavy rainfalls. They will leave sooner, not wait until they step outside onto their deck and it's floating.
Slower business this year
Mark Thoreson, the campground owner, said he had about 40 seasonal campers, such as the Ewens, before the flood. About half have come back. Drive-in business has also been slower this year in part because of poor weather and high gas prices, he said. Perhaps the biggest problem, though, is that people still think they are swamped and still closed.
The only real change you see, outside of fewer seasonal homes, is that the trees along the Whitewater are mostly gone. New trees have been planted but are still small. Outside of that, Lazy-D looks a lot like it did before the flood.
The total loss for his business was about $500,000, though he had a large number of volunteers help clean up afterward and received substantial government financial help. No one knows how much the loss was for campers through the loss of motorhomes, pop-ups and other camping vehicles, though most were insured, he said. A few cost $100,000 or more.
All that bad news, however, could end soon. With weather warming and nearly all graduation parties over, the peak of the camping season is fast approaching, he said. "The real test is once we get into July," Thoreson said.
Reservations aren't as good as last year, but he hopes the sticker shock of gas prices will end soon. Then maybe more people will be like Jerry and Kay Ewen who couldn't resist the call of camping along the Whitewater.