Dutch and Nancy Hansen had packed clothing and other necessities — enough for a two- to three-day hotel stay — in preparation for having to leave their Arlington home in the event of flooding March 13 .
“While it was still daylight, we looked out and the backyard was water,” Dutch said. “We looked out a little bit later and it looked like the water level had dropped.”
The elderly couple, who live just south of U.S. Highway 30 between Fifth and Sixth streets, decided to wait.
At about 9 p.m., Dutch, 85, looked outside again. Water from Bell Creek was quickly creeping up.
“By the time we got around and got a few more things together, I looked out again and I said, 'We're too late,'” he said. “The water was too deep. We couldn't get our cars out.”
Arlington Volunteer Fire and Rescue helped the Hansens out of their home, leading them out the front door and up the steps to the highway. The floodwaters had reached the back door of the house.
The couple, who have lived in their home since 1978, have seen Bell Creek and the Elkhorn River flood before, but not like this.
“We've had water in the backyard once, but never anything like this. Never,” Dutch said.
Arlington firefighter Jeff Hasenauer and his wife invited the couple to stay at their house until other arrangements could be made. Before the flooding, the Hansens did not know the Hasenauers.
Jeff later went back to check on the Hansens' house. He found water at least three feet deep inside the house. Water in the detached garage was at least four feet deep, Nancy said.
Jeff also helped the Hansens get to Elkhorn, where they met up with their daughter. The couple stayed in a hotel for four days before returning to Arlington.
“They went above and beyond to help us,” Dutch said.
“And everybody else in the community has done the same since we've been back,” Nancy, 76, added. “We just can't thank people enough. I'm not really amazed by it because I've seen it in action other times, but it hasn't been us before.”
The Hansens returned to Arlington on March 18, staying with friend and neighbor Karen Knutson, who lives across the highway from the couple. They saw the damage to their house for the first time the next day. A layer of mud filled the house.
“It's like walking in glue,” Dutch said. “You couldn't shake it off your boots. It just kept stacking up and stacking up.”
All of the furniture in the house is ruined. However, two bedrooms, which sit higher than the rest of the house, remained dry. That's where all of the couple's clothes were. Nancy had also placed family photos and albums there with the hopes of keeping them safe.
Friends have helped the Hansens remove debris from around the house. Members of Arlington Community Church helped the couple empty cupboards and drawers.
“A lot of that stuff had to go,” Nancy said.
The couple did have flood insurance. However, it was only for the structure, not the contents. Insurance adjusters were at the house last week, but for now, the couple is just waiting.
“A day at a time, we'll take it as it comes,” Dutch said. “Some of it is pretty discouraging, but then there will be a bright spot. You pick it up again and go ahead.
“However, we are, in a lot of ways, fortunate. We're not near as bad off as some of these other people are. Their houses filled up. We got water damage, you betcha, and all that stuff that goes with it, but we've still been blessed in a way that we're not as bad off as the other people,” he added.
The couple hope to rebuild. But a lot will depend on how damaged the house is. The house sits on land zoned light industrial/commercial. If the house is deemed that more than 50 percent of its value is damaged, they won't be able to rebuild.
“We're hoping to stay in Arlington whether we can rebuild or not,” Nancy said.
But Dutch is still hopeful.
“As silly as it might sound, I'd kind of like to stay there,” he said. “We've lived there 40 years and never had any problems. It's quiet down there. It's warmer in the winter because the north wind blows over us. But it is a waiting game.”
Nancy said it's their faith that is helping them through this difficult time.
“Our faith is helping us through and our church family is helping us through,” she said. “It's been a wonderful uplifting thing through this stressful period.”