Ron and Deloras Cannon found themselves waist deep in water as they tried to rescue their livestock on their ranch in the Washington Fields area.
With their son they raced from gate to gate to open the way for the cattle and horses.Unfortunately, 120 pigs were lost. "You just can't drive pigs," Deloras said. "My son said that was the worst part of the whole thing - listening to animals dying and not being able to help."
But as the Cannons and other dazed homeowners surveyed the slimy goo that had inundated their homes and puzzled over their next move, armies of friends, neighbors and strangers began forming bucket brigades, manning shovels and brooms and organizing food and laundry services to get the cleanup operation under way.
"We've had literally hundreds of people here today. I don't know who they are or where they live. I recognize a few faces, but most just volunteered and showed up," said Scott Hansen, whose Bloomington home was one of the hardest hit by the torrent released when a dike burst at the Quail Creek reservoir shortly after midnight Sunday morning.
"When you're downstairs, everything is so bewildering you don't know what to do or where to start. But with everybody doing a little bit, it gets done. We were just fortunate to have so many people here."
For Hansen, the disaster was especially ill-timed. "We had just sold the house and were supposed to close on it this Friday."
Those plans are now gone and Hansen will have to wait a while before moving into a new house built just a few miles away in an area that eluded the floodwaters. Like the others in his neighborhood, Hansen gathered his family together and headed for high ground when the word came to evacuate. With a move imminent, many of the family's belongings had been packed in boxes and placed in the basement. Four hours after the evacuation, the water surged out of the Virgin River, raced across a park, through yards, and into basements, including Hansen's.
"We thought we had to go right then, we didn't know it would be four hours. Everything was packed, in four hours we could have gotten everything out of the house."
For some, it was a situation of give and receive. Martin and Lana Lustig, Hansen's next-door neighbors, found themselves in that situation. Forced to flee with the others, the Lustigs decided to help by opening trailers, campers and RVs on their sales lot for use by the evacuees. Then they sat back to wait. When they were finally able to return to their home Sunday afternoon, they found hundreds of volunteers already at work hauling out mud, removing furniture and shoveling debris.
Truman Leishman, a high councilor in one of the St. George stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was one of those who jumped immediately into the volunteer effort. Leishman was at the Riverside Apartments by 4 a.m. to see what was needed and to begin organizing volunteer efforts. As night descended, he could be seen moving through the 100-unit complex, lending a hand, assigning volunteers and asking residents what else needed to be done.
"We've just been trying to help the best we can," Leishman said of the 300 volunteers who showed up at the complex. "The people need help and we are trying to provide that assistance."
Leishman became aware of the problem shortly after midnight when his local LDS church building was opened up as a temporary shelter. He said word began to spread immediately among church members and as soon as the waters began to recede, volunteers descended on the affected areas.