Lacey, Wash. -- "I woke up at 6:30 because the dog was barking. When I looked out the window, I saw that he was barking at a flower pot floating by," exclaimed Dryad resident Mary Hurley.
So began Michael and Mary Hurley's ordeal with the flood that swept away their trailer house in December, 2007.
The water was seven feet deep when they left the trailer, and it continued to rise for two more feet.
The fire truck that had been picking people up had to turn back before it got to the Hurleys. The water was too deep to get close. Rescue workers had to use a boat to get them off the porch.
When the people next door came out, water was up to their necks, and they had to swim to safety.
For the Hurley's, losing their home was just the beginning of their troubles. "Our FEMA assistance was delayed for two weeks because the insurance company wouldn't provide the information we needed," explained Michael. So the Hurleys contacted FEMA, who put them in touch with the Disaster Legal Assistance provided by volunteers from the Washington State Bar Association.
"The lawyer called, and the insurance company sent the papers in two days," said Mary. "She was great! We needed them to put in writing that we didn't have flood insurance, and they finally did."
Settling the insurance issue opened the way for federal-state disaster assistance. The Hurleys are using a grant from FEMA to replace their trailer, placing it on a foundation being laid by Mennonite volunteers. In addition, they received money from the State's Other Needs Assistance program toward purchase of a replacement for the truck that had been lost in the flood, as well as a new set of dentures for Michael.
"Without FEMA, we would have had to walk away from this place," said Michael. "And I mean walk. My truck was ruined too."
Mary agrees. "Without disaster assistance, we would have been in a world of hurt."
The floods of December are over, but the recovery work lingers on. Roads are being re-built, debris is being cleared, and gradually people are putting their homes and their lives back together.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.