Part One: Couple Faces Flood and Cancer
NEAR JACKSON, NE - Nearly one year ago, thousands of homes across Siouxland were damaged or destroyed by flooding. This is a two-part look at how one couple faced the destruction of their dream home, then cancer.
Larry and Rita Legg wanted to spend their days by the water in their home.
"Our house was paid for and we were trying to retire is what we were doing last summer," said Larry Legg.
Their garage out back is about four feet higher than their home with a spare bedroom and bathroom for visitors. They weren't in a designated flood zone. So Larry didn't buy flood insurance.
Then, they heard the news: the Missouri River was going to flood, big time. Their house is 30 feet above the water. Flooding never crossed their minds. Without flood insurance, they turned to their friends and neighbors to make the move.
"And they came in and we totally loaded up all of our belongings out of the house and that's now stored in two different states, a couple different counties. When we want to find shoes, it's either in Hubbard or Hinton or somewhere in between," Larry described.
Then the water started rising, but the help didn't come fast enough.
"Even the Corps of Engineers spent time and money doing dikes down in South Sioux that nobody ever come out here to offer help or anything like that," said Larry.
Larry and his crew did a little neighborhood engineering: tin berms, sandbags and loose sand on top of plastic around the house and garage, but the river was too high.
"The water was two feet high in our living room and stayed there for two months which is, a normal a flood just comes and goes and the next day you're cleaning up. This one stayed for two months," Larry explained.
When the water receded, the Legg's retirement home was covered in mold, floor to ceiling.
"They advised us the only way to fix it would be to strip it down to the 2x4's and treat them for mold then seal the wood after that and then we could do construction after that," said Larry. "But the cost of that is really not worth the effort."
Facing a dire financial situation with his house, Larry's bad news got even worse.
"I ended up with colon cancer. And they took out about a foot of my colon and right now we're doing chemo and radiation both," he said.
From November to January, Larry had five operations.
"And then after got done with the operations, we had a German Shepherd that was 13 years old and she died. So it's pretty hard to go through all of that, but you have to figure out a way to do it," he explained.
With a house destroyed and cancer threatening Larry's life, the Leggs needed help.
"All the neighbors have helped us out here. It's a pretty good place to live," Larry said as he smiled.
Take a look at the second part to this story to see how friends and family came together and how far Larry and Rita have come since the flood took almost everything.