Flooded RV Park Residents Ponder Their Futures
Harried residents of an Arizona trailer park slammed by floodwaters last month are living in a storm-induced limbo, facing uncertainty after Yavapai County officials declared the park unsafe to live in, according to the Arizona Republic.
Damages are so severe that the county has posted placards at the River’s Edge RV Park warning that it isn’t “fit for occupancy.”
Trailers were pummeled by water and mud and rearranged like empty boxes when the Agua Fria River and the Black Canyon Creek roared out of their banks in a two-day deluge last month that overturned trees and deposited so much debris that the caretaker’s pickup was buried in sand.
“She used to be a good truck,” said caretaker Joe Moeller, 47. “We’re just going to put some rocks around it and create a memorial.”
There were about 60 units and 85 to 90 residents living in the park when the storms struck. Today, Moeller said, maybe five people are still living there.
Nearly two weeks later, residents now want some answers about what to expect next: what kind of relief is still available, how and when they might be able to rebuild, and where they are to live in the interim.
Many of them joined about 300 Black Canyon City-area residents at a local school Monday night (Feb. 1) where county and federal officials were invited to address those subjects at what was expected to be a lively public forum.
Some River’s Edge residents were irritated by reports that their park was going to be condemned. Steve Mauk of Yavapai County Development Services said the notices at the park mean that people should not live there until its wastewater, electrical and well systems have been repaired.
The park, though, has not been condemned. Officials said it could reopen once the electrical, sewage and well systems are repaired.
“The intent is to ensure the park meets life-safety issues prior to it being occupied again,” he said Monday afternoon.
Some residents lost everything. Others didn’t have it as bad but still are working through serious damage and a lot of heartache. Those interviewed Monday said they liked living near the river. No one expected the kind of flood that rumbled down on them during the recent storms.
Residents at the meeting were upset by the lack of temporary-housing information and the absence of federal emergency officials.
Ronn White, 49, said nothing like this has ever happened and asked if there was some sort of problem besides the rain, such as a system failure. He never got the answer. He was also frustrated because he said officials didn’t seem to acknowledge that the entire area got hit.
“These people got wiped out,” he said. “That’s terrible, but this isn’t just about the RV park.”
Now, earthmovers are hauling away or redirecting giant mounds of mud and sand. As residents continued cleaning up Monday, nearly all said they weren’t sure what was next.
“It ain’t really sunk in yet,” Tim Strmic, 49, said as he dug out the mud packed under his RV. “The more work I do, the more I see I have to do.”
A tree that grows at an angle grabbed his shed like a lifeguard, preventing it from being swept downstream. He’d like to get his tools and other things out, but the door is trapped shut and Strmic doesn’t really want to cut down the tree.
As they assess their options, most residents also are unclear about what help the government can provide. Some have moved in with relatives or friends temporarily. Others have gone to a Red Cross shelter, but that shelter is scheduled to close by the middle of this week, potentially leaving them homeless.
The Red Cross said it has programs to help with clothes, food and rent.
Few of the residents appeared to have flood insurance, so how they will pay for repairs or replacements is a big unknown.
On Monday, skepticism was rampant about whether government aid would materialize.
Earl Pittman, 57, of Blue Ridge, Ga., was back Monday at the spot where his RV was parked before the storm. He was scanning the site for any belongings left in the churn. A couple of planters turned up.
Pittman was one of the lucky ones: He moved his RV twice as the floodwaters were rising, finally finding safety on a dry spot. He said the flood hit fast and hard.
“It takes a lot to kind of unnerve me,” he said. “When I stepped out in knee-deep water, I was unnerved.”
Gary Scofield, 66, a retired iron worker and one of the few still calling River’s Edge home, has no water or power in his trailer. It had 20 inches of water in it during the storm. Nonetheless, he still is spending his nights there.
Nobody has told him directly not to stay, he said. But he is learning quickly that it makes sense to leave regularly.
“If you stay here too long, it will mentally get to you,” he said.