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Hundreds of volunteers help clean up muddy mess from flooding in Santa Clara

'They're just coming from all over the place to help'

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 12 2012 5:03 p.m. MDT

"We're just going to start over, take the walls down," she said while gazing at her muddy business.

The door to the walk-in freezer was swept a quarter-mile away, into the yard of Lisa Gunkley. Wednesday, volunteers were at Gunkley's door before she even got out of bed.

"Some's guy is here on his backhoe I don't even know," she said. "They're just coming from all over the place to help. … It's just amazing how many people are helping. Kind of overwhelming, but this makes it a lot more manageable."

On Tuesday night, Gunkley said she finally had to send volunteers away because she needed to go to sleep, even though they wanted to keep working.

Back to work

The next morning, the volunteers were back and helped haul buckets and buckets of mud out of her basement. Her basement was gutted and she said she lost family videos and a quilt she was stitching.

As the freezer door from Cravings Bakery was found and removed, the owner of Goodyear Dixieland Tire across the street said he didn't know what happened to the Coke machine that had been sitting in front of his store. It was nowhere to be found Wednesday afternoon.

But that machine was the least of Brian Johnson's worries. Mud broke through the windows of his bay doors and filled the garage of his tire repair shop. Johnson said his garage was filled with 2½ feet of mud and water from front to back. He was still estimating the damage Wednesday, trying to figure out how much of his equipment will be salvageable.

"We have no idea yet. We have to get it cleaned up, dried off, but we're not hopeful," he said.

The back room, where all of his tires were stored, suffered the heaviest damage.

"When you get tires slamming around, it does some damage. It's just an unbelievable mess back there," he said. "It's an unbelievable disaster back there."

The mud continued to flow to homes behind Johnson's store, knocking over a cinder block wall in the parking lot and continuing down Arrowhead Lane where Willene and Rex Bivens' basement took a direct hit.

"The whole basement is destroyed. It has to be gutted," the elderly Willene Bivens said as she sorted through her goopy possessions piled in her front yard to see what was salvageable. "It filled clear up to about four inches from the ceiling and broke out the windows, picked up the furniture and destroyed it."

Rex Bivens and his son typically sleep in the basement.

"If it had happened at night, we'd have had two people killed. It happened during the day and that was the blessing. There's always a blessing in every tragedy, and that was it. And we still have the upstairs in which to live," his wife said.

A knock at the door

As was the case with many other residents, the Bivenses said volunteers started showing up before any of the hired disaster cleanup workers arrived.

"We just had people knock on our door and volunteers started showing up early this morning. I don't know what we'd do without them," she said.

One of those volunteers was Ivins resident Kathee Hunt. She had never met the Bivenses, but she showed up Wednesday morning at Santa Clara City Hall to be assigned to help wherever she could.

"It's sad all the stuff that's happened to these people, and they have no insurance. So I'm just trying to help them clean it up," she said, caked in red mud from head to toe while hauling mud from the basement.

"I just can't believe the damage. There's not even a basement down there. It's mud, everywhere. It doesn't even look like a house."

Jerri Jorgensen and her friends traveled from the Little Valley neighborhood in St. George to help after the LDS Little Valley Stake sent out an email to all of its members.

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