191 State of Disaster The power of help after disaster with Shamrock Steele

191 State of Disaster: The power of help after disaster with Shamrock Steele

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No one expects to evacuate from their home in the middle of the night, wading through chest-deep water to find a way out of an emergency.

We just don’t think it’ll happen to us.

But for Shamrock Steele and her husband, Dave Lanphear, it did.

Shamrock and Dave survived the Skagit floods in November 2021.

They made it out in the middle of the night, in their pajamas, with their young grandkids and pets.

Their completely remodeled house that they were just about to move into, however, did not.

Then days turned to months as they figured out what to do next and how to rebuild.

And that’s when they met The Salvation Army.

Show highlights include:

  • What it’s like to live through a flood disaster.
  • Recovering from a disaster can be a challenging and ongoing process
  • Assistance from organizations like The Salvation Army can make a significant difference.
  • Gratitude for the help received can have a lasting impact.
  • Disasters can have a profound effect on individuals and communities.
  • Supporting organizations like The Salvation Army is crucial—even small donations can make a difference in helping those affected by disasters.
  • Words of encouragement can inspire others to help and prepare for disasters

Listen and subscribe to the Do Gooders Podcast now. Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for readability. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post.

* * *

Christin Thieme: Well, Shamrock and Dave, welcome to The Do Gooders Podcast. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Shamrock Steele: Thank you for inviting us.

Dave Lanphear: Yes.

Christin Thieme: Absolutely. It’s so great to talk to you. I know you have an incredible story to tell and I can’t wait to hear all about it. You are both disaster survivors and have an incredible story. Before that day that we’re going to talk about, did you have any connection to The Salvation Army?

Shamrock Steele: Heard about them and I didn’t really understand everything that they do. I knew as a child that they had helped us out on Christmas one time. I just remembered that I was like six years old. But other than that, I didn’t understand really what The Salvation Army really does.

Christin Thieme: So then we get to 2021. Can you tell us a little bit about what all happened that day? I mean, I know that you had nearly finished remodeling your home. Oh my goodness. You were about to move into it. I understand. So can you just walk us through what happened?

Shamrock Steele: We had remodeled our home, literally gutted it to remodel it. We were living on a fifth wheel on the property while we did that. We placed everything brand new into the house. So therefore we weren’t taking the chances of anything having to put out any more money for a new refrigerator or anything because it went out right after we finished remodeling. Everything was sitting in the house in boxes. I had my grandchild over. We were in painting that day. It had been raining as always. In the area, it always rains. We do live fairly close to a river, but not in a flood zone. But we had heard the river was getting high, so I kept monitoring it. As the evening progressed, we finished painting and went into the fifth wheel for the night figuring the next day, we were going to go in there and move everything into its location and so that we would be able to move in.

At that time, going into the fifth wheel, I continued monitoring it. The kids were running around playing and everything, and it come time for bed, but I was just on edge and wasn’t really ready to sleep. David’s like, “It’ll be fine. It’ll be fine.” We were getting updates from the weather people that says, “Be prepared. This is a bad storm,” which is not unusual again, but I just had an odd feeling. So I just kept monitoring it. We got a particular from the National Weather Bureau flashed across our phone, says, “If you live in these areas, you should be out. It’s flooded. If you live in these areas, you’re probably going to flood, leave. And if you live in these areas, you should be fine.” Where we lived in the area, that should be fine. At that point, David went to bed. I followed him after I put the kids down and everything, I followed him to bed, but I still was not ready to go to sleep.

So I was laying there and the TV was on. Now, when we in a fifth wheel have the advantage of if electricity goes out around us, we still had electricity because it’s a fifth wheel and it’ll automatically kick onto its own system. So no idea anything going on. But then I heard an odd sound outside, so I opened the curtain a little bit to look outside and there was just a shimmer look out there, and I took a second and it registered, “Oh my goodness, that’s water. We’re in trouble.” I said, “David, get up.” And he’s like, “What?” And I said, “We’re flooding. Get up.” Jumps up out of bed and I said, “Go get those babies.” So he went in and he got the grand babies and brought them back to me on the bed.

But we were already flooded in the fifth wheel at that time. It was already flooded down where the kids were sleeping because there’s the three level. It was already flooded that high. He brought them back to me, and so now he’s going to evaluate. At that point, he comes back in and says, “The stairs are gone.” So you had to walk up a set of stairs to get up into our place because they had already floated away. So now he’s going to go and evaluate if we can even get a car out or how we can get out. So he goes ahead and lets himself off the porch. The other thing to keep in mind, this is like two o’clock in the morning, we’re all in pajamas. We have no shoes or nothing.

So he goes and lets himself down off of the porch and walks up and the car was just starting to flood. So he was able to back that up enough out of the flood. He then came back and he says, “We need to leave now.” So I guess we got the babies out first. He found a piece of plywood that was pretty thick that was floating, and he wanted to float the boys on that over to the car. However, the boys wanted no part of it. They’re scared. They’re two and three years old.

So he ended up carrying one out. He didn’t want to fall because the water was pretty deep already. So he didn’t want to trip over anything and fall and baby drop in the water. But luckily he made it across with one and came back, got the other one. Now we had to get the dog out, which she was wanting no part of the water because she hates water. But we had to force her to get her out and then he came back and he had to help me because there was no way I could get down. So he helped me down and then we got out. But by that time it was up to my chest when we got out at that point.

So the first thing we did is went down to my son’s house and dropped off the kids with them because return their children back to them. Sorry guys. But after that it’s like we didn’t know what to do or where to go or anything else. We were just at a total loss.

Christin Thieme: What did you do at that point?

Shamrock Steele: So him and I had talked about it, about what to do, and we went through our options. There was obviously all kinds of shelters open. However, there was two things that were against us. The first was so much flooding that they were full. The second thing is we’re veterans. Once you hear we’re veterans, it’s like, “Well, you need to go somewhere else to get help.” But we did go into the VetConnect to get some help, and we were told that there’s nothing they can do for us. So my main concern at this particular time was he’s on oxygen. He has a lot of meds. I have a lot of meds. He has a lot of medical equipment just to keep him living. I need those replaced now. It’s not something I can wait on. So how do I go about doing this?

Luckily, I had contacts here in Seattle at the VA. I emailed her and I explained to her what was going on and she was right on top of it, making sure that he got all the equipment that we needed. So that first day we spent trying to replace his medication and all of that. Unfortunately for me, I don’t go through the VA just because I never started going through the VA, but my medication and everything, I had to wait for everything to expire before they were able to give me new stuff, which after explaining to them a 2nd, 3rd, 4th time, I still to this day, I had a CPAP machine that I use. Still to this day has not been replaced. And how many years later? It’s over two years and we’re still waiting. So it has not been an easy process in any way, shape, or form.

Christin Thieme: I think that’s something that’s interesting about disasters, that there’s so much coverage in the immediate aftermath of what has happened, but then we don’t often hear about all the waiting that follows. So in those months that followed, the actual night of the flooding, what were those like when you were trying to figure out the next steps?

Shamrock Steele: It was tough because we couldn’t get back into our place. There was way too much water. We ended up having over 10 feet of water, so we had to wait for that water to recede. And then after it receded, obviously we have to go in there and strip everything or have somebody come in there and do it. We now don’t have the money because we’ve just invested all of our money into the house. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of calling the insurance company and letting them know. They knew we were insured and we were insured for the fifth wheel. So I told them we’d be moving into the house, so we’re going to need to switch the insurance over. So we fell right in that gap of where the insurance switched over. So we had no insurance that would cover it. Literally starting back at ground zero with absolutely nothing. So yeah, we just got a motel room for a couple of days and then did what we needed to do.

Christin Thieme: So in the months that followed, you’re trying to figure out what to do now. I mean you have this newly remodeled house. Was it a total loss?

Shamrock Steele: Total loss, 100% loss.

Christin Thieme: Okay. So tell me about how you came across or met The Salvation Army in the midst of all this.

Shamrock Steele: Basically nothing really salvageable. I have glass plates, so things like that I was able to go in, get them, sterilize them, wash them up and of course, use them. You had to be real careful about what you could save and what you couldn’t. By this time David and I had, and it was just him and I working on it little by little. Went in there, demolished everything and started rebuilding again, picking up from Habitats or wherever we could get parts to be able to put this house back together. Again, we didn’t have a whole lot because we were trying to rebuild and then I got a phone call and it was Danielle asking us about the flood. That’s how we made connection. I am not 100% sure how she found us, but somehow she found us. So that’s how we made the connection. Yeah, that’s how it all started. She came in and she talked to us and looked around and stuff and she’s like, “I think I can help you guys.”

Christin Thieme: So then what was that relationship from there?

Shamrock Steele: So she worked very closely with us. She kept us in touch. She says, “Let me see what I can do for you guys.” So then she called and she’s like, “Are you guys ready to get your life back together?” And I said, “Absolutely.” So she’s like, “Okay.” She says, “Do you have a contractor?” And I say that my son is a contractor. I said, “I can talk to him.” So I put her and him in touch with each other. So she told him what she wanted having done in our house, which was very, very nice because of course she’s already gone through the house, so she knows. And then she called one day and says, “Will you meet me down at Bodie’s Appliance Stall?”

I had never even heard of that place. I asked her what the location was, she told me, and we went down there and she’s like, “Okay. Let’s get the things you need.” And I was just shocked. So I got a new stove, thank God, because after being through the flood, mine was shorted out. So only part of it that it worked. Got a new freezer because that one went totally in there. Replaced our washer and dryer, which no longer worked because of the flood. We got a new bed from the furniture store and new couch. So absolutely a blessing for us.

Christin Thieme: Yeah, I can’t imagine. But what was it like to be after so much, just the ongoing slog of trying to recover from a disaster? What was it like to finally find somebody who could help, some assistance?

Shamrock Steele: Such a relief. David and I, we both are in bad health and had gone through a lot as far as, still are medically, and we’re seniors. We’re trying to do this by ourselves. Our children have very busy lives running their own things, so they don’t have the ability to really come up to us and help us. And they don’t understand where we were at or what we had been going through. They really did not grasp it, which was interesting to me to learn that from James, which owns the construction. But it was such a relief to know that we could just not sit back and just let somebody else take it over, but was going to get some help that we were not in this alone anymore. So yeah, it was a total blessing.

But James figured it out because James actually picked up one of the other jobs. He did another job for The Salvation Army as well, helped one of the other people out in the flood. I don’t know how many others, I just know of the one other. But I do know that there was some other ones that he did help out from that same flood. He was doing the repairs for him. But he’s like, mom, he says, “I understood that you guys were flooded out.” He says, “I totally understood that.” But he says, “I did not understand what you guys were going through. I did not until I actually got up there and seen what you guys were dealing with.” He says, “You hear about it, but it is nothing compared to actually experiencing it.”

Christin Thieme: And you probably never thought that you would be a flooded out disaster survivor. I mean, I imagine nobody ever expects that to happen to them.

Shamrock Steele: Absolutely not. And I’m going to tell you right now, it scares me. This rain anymore, always scares me. Even though I know we don’t live in a flood area, I am so afraid of the rain and having to go through another flood.

Christin Thieme: So now we’re into the middle of 2024. So where do things stand now?

Shamrock Steele: We’re back in our house. We are doing little things, but all major construction has been redone, completely. All the floors have been ripped out and redone. All of the carpets laid, the tiles laid and stuff, which was amazing because that’s such a large job. But yeah, we now just do the little things to keep things maintained now. So we’re doing very good at where we’re at. There’s always things to do when you have a property that big.

Christin Thieme: I’m so glad you’re back at home.

Shamrock Steele: So are we. In a nice cozy bed.

Christin Thieme: Oh my goodness. So now on the other side of all of this, thankfully, what would you say, what would be your words of encouragement to people who see The Salvation Army, who know of The Salvation Army and might be in a position to help to prepare for disasters financially or physically or whatever it might be?

Shamrock Steele: You never know when it’s going to happen. You don’t expect it ever to happen to you. So if you have the capability, even if it’s a dollar, to give to The Salvation Army to help these people. So if you have the ability to help them with blankets, clothing, we were unfortunate enough to have this happen right at the end of COVID. So we unfortunately, like food was not an option for us to get from them. They couldn’t give out food. So there was a lot of things they couldn’t give out. However, if you had donated money, then they could have given us money, which they had given us a card for Safeway, that gave us the ability to go and buy food for us. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be food. It could be a dollar. It could be $5. Whatever you can help with, it’s going to help somebody out in some way.

Christin Thieme: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Shamrock, thank you so much for sharing and telling us a little bit about your experience. I’m so glad you’re back at home and on the other side of this, and hopefully that rain will stay just little raindrops.

Shamrock Steele: I would hope so. Thank you so much for your time. I so much appreciate it.

Additional resources:

  • Did you know The Salvation Army served some 24 million Americans last year fighting hunger, homelessness, substance abuse and more? Where can you help? Take our quiz to find your cause and learn how you can join in today. 
  • See how The Salvation Army fights disaster.

Listen and subscribe to the Do Gooders Podcast now.

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