It wasn’t the best day of her life, but it wasn’t the worst either.
That’s how Heidi Potucek described May 8, the day she and her family were forced to flee their home before the rising waters of Slate Creek in western Cowley County.
“When we got up at 6 a.m., water was surrounding the house,” Potucek said. “It was about six feet from the house. An hour later, it was at my door.”
Potucek started calling her father-in-law, Jim Potucek, and neighbors to see if anyone could get a boat to them.
“My husband, Mitch, has a broken leg — he couldn’t walk out,” Heidi said.
“We needed a boat to get out. Fifteen minutes later, Mitch said he was calling 911. The water was coming in fast.”
It was seeping into the crawl space, then it came flying out of the vents, Heidi said. She tried to move some things up higher, but everything still got wet.
“Everything was so dirty,” she said. “It was so gross.”
Rescuers from the Wellington Fire Department finally got to the family in a boat.
“It took a long time for them to get to us,” Heidi said. “Every road between us and them was blocked.”
The family got out — father, mother, two kids, 12 and 9 years old, two dogs and a cat in Heidi’s backpack.
“Of course she was going crazy,” Potucek said.
A pet miniature horse did not survive.
The Potuceks had no idea how bad things were. They just took enough clothes for the weekend.
They went back to their house the night of May 10 to ascess the damage. There was 27 inches of water on the first floor of the house and four feet of water in the garage. The second floor of the house was dry, but full of humidity, so they are using the services of A1 Carpet Cleaning and Restoration to dehumidify the place and hold back the mold.
The water totaled Heidi’s car. The house’s propane tank was floating in the yard, so she waded out to it to turn off the tank and stop the leaking.
“Tons of friends” — about 35 — showed up to help them tackle the cleanup job the next day. They took out sheetrock and flooring, appliances, furniture, bedding, and the HVAC system.
“We’re sort of keeping a running total” of how much it will cost to restore,” Heidi said. Right now they are estimating between $70,000 and $80,000.
“We have to decide if we can make it livable,” she said. “We have to rebuild, refurnish, repair. It all adds up.”
The Potuceks three years ago gutted and renovated the entire house; everything inside it was new.
Because they are not on a flood plain, they had no flood insurance, which comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Their insurance company could reimburse them only for Heidi’s car.
She expects they’ll be out of the house at least a couple of months. By then they should be able to tell if it can be saved.
Heidi said she was not really scared by the flood, but she was stressed. Most of what was left behind were “just things.”
“We got my people and my pets out — that’s all I need,” she said.
Her friends, Chuck and LouAnn Buss, of Oxford, have loaned the Potuceks a house as long as they need it. All they had to do was get their clothes and move in.
Many others have stepped up to help, too.
Heidi’s great-aunt, Phyllis Hearn, of Winfield, has set up a fund for the Potuceks through RCB Bank.
Friend Karen Cornejo is setting up an enchilada fundraiser from 4 to 7 p.m. June 12 at Neives,’ 119 E. Ninth Ave., in Winfield. Look for more information on the event.
Friends are organizing a meal train online for the Potuceks because Heidi is having a hard time getting meals prepared with so much else to do. Those wanting to get meals to them can go to mealtrain.com to get on the calendar.
Friends have been steadily helping with repair work, Heidi said. In addition to friends, the First United Methodist Church ministry team and a team from GracePoint Assembly of God have committed days to working with the Potuceks.
Heidi said they appreciate the help, especially since Mitch has been out of commission with pins and screws in his leg for so many weeks.
“He’s the commander,” who tells everyone else what to do, Heidi said.
“We try to laugh abut it,” she said. “Nothing else is going to help.”