The Danbury Review Wednesday,
September 20, 2017

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Natural Disasters From Afar Hit Close to Home

    Pray for Houston. Pray for Montana. Pray for Florida. It seems we have been inundated by requests to pray and help those living in those states. Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. Fires forage the forests in Montana. Florida was inundated by Irma. Jose hopes to hinder the East Coast. Us here in the middle of the country? Well...so far so good this year.
    While we live thousands of miles from the devastation, there are people with loved ones here that are living in the danger zones. Here are their takes on what we have heard about. Spoiler alert: what we have seen and heard on the news isn't exactly what has been experienced by these people. Nonetheless, they lived with the fears for what could have happened and did happen to others.

Houston, We Have a Hurricane

Jason Coronado stands on the banks of Buffalo Bayou in Texas.
Two thirds of the Bayou park was underwater due to Hurricane
Harvey. Photo submitted by Jeff Wooster. Thanks, Jeff!
    Hurricane Harvey made landfall at the end of August, ending a 12-year drought of hurricanes of that magnitude reaching the contiguous U.S. By the time it dissipated, it devastated Texas, leaving up to 51" of rain in some parts of the state. Over 100,000 homes were damaged. Approximately 300,000 people were displaced. More than 17,000 people needed to be rescued. Eighty-three deaths were blamed on Harvey.
    Houston took a big hit from Harvey. The storm made landfall and stalled over the city, dumping rain on those still there. Over 9 trillion gallons of water fell on Houston during Harvey. Pictures of the flooding were shown in the news and in pleas for help. It seemed the entire city of Houston was covered in water.
    But that's not quite right.
    Jeff Wooster (son of Jackie (Twitchell) and Jim Wooster of Syracuse, NE) and his husband, Randy Greathouse and their dog, Hercules live in Houston. Jeff stated that approximately 10% of Houston was actually flooded, approximately 100,000 homes. Jeff and Randy were fortunate and were spared the flooding which did get as close as a mile and a half from their home. But there is more to a story than the devastation (or perhaps lack thereof) from a major storm. The fear of not knowing can really affect someone.
    Jeff was called away from Houston for work when the storm hit, leaving Randy and Hercules on their own.
    "It was nerve wracking not being here (in Houston) and trying to get news from people's posts on Facebook," commented Wooster. "All I could see for the first few days were the same photos over and over on The Weather Channel and CNN online."
    These photos showed the worst of the storm, people using boats down the streets that looked like major rivers, rescuing people from the tops of their homes and from cars floating down the "river." People looking at their homes covered with water. These photos did exactly what the news hoped, instilled sadness and worry in the hearts of those not experiencing the storm. Having his loved one in the thick of the storm caused much anxiety to Jeff.
    "After a couple days, friends started posting photos of my neighborhood, and I could recognize buildings and intersections, and I knew it wasn't as bad as they made it sound," added Wooster, "although for my friends who were rescued by National Guard boats from their flooded houses it was bad enough."
    These friends lived just 4 miles from Wooster and Greathouse. While Jeff and Randy were spared the pain of cleaning up from the storm, helping their friends and seeing the damage not that far from their home gave them a true taste of Harvey's impact.

Irma Infiltrated Florida

A window in Florida is partially shuttered
during hurricane preparations. Photo by
Jason Kuebke, nephew of Megan and
Jeremy Doty of Danbury. Thanks, Jason!
    A couple weeks after Harvey ended his path of destruction, Hurricane Irma hit Florida. The news again warned of total devastation, this time making it sound like Florida would fall into the ocean with the damage. It was the most intense Atlantic hurricane to strike the United States since Katrina in 2005, and the first major hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Wilma in 2005. Eighty-four deaths, including 38 in the U.S. were attributed to Irma.
    Among those who stayed in Florida and riding out the storm was Becky Boyle (daughter of June and Mike Boyle of Danbury), significant other Adam, and their children Alex, Aaron and Ethan along with their dog, Max who were in their home in Lauderhill. The family debated whether or not Adam should take the kids and head out of the storm's path, but since Becky needed to stay for work (she was considered an essential employee at the hospital), they all chose to stay.
    "Understanding that it was going to be a big one, we put our hurricane shutters up the weekend prior," said Becky. "Therefore, it made a long week of a dark house as we prepared by waiting in long lines to get gas for our vehicles, going to numerous grocery stores looking for water, bread, peanut butter and other such items that will last throughout the storm without power. We geared up our generators to be sure they worked and again waited in long lines to fill our gas tanks to keep the generators working when needed.
    "I always find the storm to be the scariest when we cannot look outside due to the shutters on the windows and not wanting to open your door to change the pressure within your home. From Saturday night to Sunday morning we had five tornado warnings. Each time there was a warning we proceeded to get the kids to an inner part of the home in a closet without windows. We had additional tornado warnings throughout Sunday but not quite as often or as intense as the storm rolled north of us. As the winds died down close to 26 hours into the storm and our dog insisted he go out to go potty we began to venture out and watch as branches, trees and debris raced by our front entrance for the next 6 hours or so. We actually probably ventured out a little earlier than we should due to stir craziness because occasionally a good strong gust of wind would almost knock us down as we started to chat with our neighbors to be sure everyone was okay.
    "I will say there are still a large number of my employees that do not have power restored to their homes at this time, therefore again counting my blessings that I had very little power interruption throughout the storm," added Becky. "For my family and me, the hardest part of the storm was preparing for it as the news consistently talked doom."

Where There's Smoke - It Could Be From Montana's Fire

Smoke is visible above the trees and a smokey haze covers the area
at Glacier National Park in Montana. As of September 17th, the fire
was 47% contained at this park. Photo by Ellen Boyle. Thanks, Ellen!
    Before Irma took center stage in the news. Before Harvey hit Houston. Montana was on fire. Literally. And even though some of our weather could be from the hurricanes, the haze we experienced last week was definitely from the fires.
    It all began on July 19th when a lightning strike started at Lodgepole Complex. Over 270,000 acres of land burned before the fire was contained. Since July 19th over 40 fires have ignited in and near Montana. These fires consumed over 1,000 acres of land each with many more smaller fires dotting the land. As of September 13th, the second largest fire, the Rice Ridge Fire had consumed over 155,000 acres. Over a million acres of land has burned so far. Drought has been blamed for the deluge of fires, and some relief is finally coming to help in the form of snow and rain.
    While some fires were begun from sparks of other fires, not all were started by acts of nature. One began when a Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation employee was driving a 4-wheeler which had grass and seeds lodged in the engine. He didn't realize the problem until it was too late. Another started when a hawk carrying his supper, a snake hit a power line.
    Ellen (daughter of the late Bernice and Paul Gahan of Danbury) and John Boyle (son of Dorothy and Vince Boyle of Danbury) have been living in Whitefish, MT, for a few months now. The closest fire to them is at the Sprague Fire at Glacier National Park approximately 30 miles driving and probably 15 miles as far as smoke traveling. There are fires in all directions from them. The past 3 weeks they have had hazy and smoky skies regardless of the wind direction because the fires surrounding them. This particular fire was ignited by lightning on August 10 and is 60% contained. It has contained 16,790 acres of land so far.
    "There is a daycare/preschool across the street from where we live, probably 50 or so kids there," mentioned Ellen on September 12th. Normally I hear them playing outside throughout the day. For the past 10 days or so, they have not taken them outside to play because of the air quality. Every day on the news they report the predicted air quality for various towns (kind of like windchill in Iowa winter). Although we have not necessarily been directly affected by the fires, we are getting an education wild and forest fires."
    The Boyles visited Glacier National Park on Sunday and could see some of the damage from the fire.
    "We could see how it has spread down the mountain since last week," added Ellen. "The road close to the fire has been closed for a couple weeks. If it does cross the roads to the north, will spread to the lake. The main concern there is Lake McDonald Lodge which is a major vacation/hotel/cabin destination for visitors. The fire would have to spread through 3 small towns before getting to us. The problem with not being able to put it out at this point, is that there is no access to get fire trucks to the fire. The only way is to drop water via helicopter using water from from a nearby lake."
    This past weekend brought snow in the higher elevations which helped cancel many evacuation orders. Ellen said that it was raining Monday morning which has also helped. Hopefully their fire season will end soon before more structures are lost.


Kafton Hired as Maintenance Man

    A little over a year ago the city of Danbury was training in a new maintenance man. Around a month ago that man, hesitantly, moved onto a job which suited his family needs a little better. Thus, a little more than a year after seeking the right candidate to maintain the city, the council was again seeking the right candidate. That search ended last week.
    Nick Kafton was offered the job as City Maintenance, and Kafton accepted the offer. The husband of City Clerk Brooke Kafton, the couple vows there will be no strife or favoritism shown because of their marital status.
    "While we may be husband and wife at home, while working we are just employees of the City of Danbury," said Brooke. "I work out of City Hall. Nick works out of the maintenance shed."
    The Kaftons have two sons, Landen who is a kindergartner at MVAO Elementary School, and Dax who is 2 and just got his training wheels off his bike.


Turkey Supper Sunday

    Anthon United Methodist Church is preparing for their annual harvest festival turkey supper to be held on Sunday, September 24th from 4:30 until 7:00 in the church hall. Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, corn, salad, rolls, cranberries and pie will be served. Carry-outs and deliveries in Anthon are available by calling 373-5288 after noon on the 25th.
    The cost for this feast is $12 for adults, $4 for children age 10 and under, and free for preschoolers. All carryouts are $12.

Mead Wins Open School Board Seat

    Voters in the MVAO School District were asked to vote in the school board election on September 12th. Two seats had the current members running for re-election, and one seat was open because the current member did not live in the district and thus could not run for re-election. After the ballots were all counted, the results were unoffically announced.
    The open seat in Director District 5, formerly held by Pat Pierce, was filled by Matt Mead of Oto. Mead received 72 votes in the write-in campaign. Also receiving votes were Brad Mead with 3 votes, Morgan Melby with 2 votes, and Fred T. Paulsrud, Bob Cloud, Morgan Melby, Leo Dean, Keith Robinson, Dave Bruning, Rose Baldwin, Jim McNamara, Curtis Hesse, and Joe O'Connell who all received 1 vote.
    In Director District 1, Karen Kennedy retained her seat with 100 votes.
    In Director District 3, Dale Wimmer retained his seat with 104 votes.


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