Shiprock family continues to recover from flood
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SHIPROCK — Several months after heavy rain caused flooding in the Mesa Farm area in northwest Shiprock on Aug. 5, one family continues to deal with its aftermath.
Shiprock resident Alice Shorty stood on the empty lot where her three-bedroom house once stood near Salt Creek Wash.
"It's demolished now. … It just changed in one day," Shorty said today about the home her late husband built more than 30 years ago.
She was home when flood water quickly entered the residence and swept everything in its path, including the house next door that belonged to her grandson, Derrick Woody. Both houses were declared uninhabitable and were demolished within a week of the flood.
Eric Trevizo, the vice president of the Shiprock Authorized Local Emergency Response Team, said since Shorty's house was the first to be hit by the water, it sustained the most damage.
"When we went in, that was one of the first houses that was getting ready to fold in. We didn't want anyone else to get hurt," Trevizo said. "It also had a bunch of snakes in it, so what we decided was to demolish it right away."
On the physical side, Shorty is undergoing physical therapy for one of her legs that was injured when an unknown object hit her during the flood.
After seeking temporary shelter at the Shiprock Chapter house, Shorty moved with Woody and his wife in late August to the Chaco Apartments on the north side of Shiprock.
The assistance they received allows them to live a year in the complex. In the meantime, they are working on obtaining a homesite lease near Nenahnezad.
Laberta Woody, Shorty's daughter and Derrick's mother, said they are moving because the area was declared a flood zone by the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency. She said if they rebuild on the site, they would not receive utility services because of the flood zone designation.
Derrick Woody said he lived near his grandmother in order to take care of her, and he continues to live with her for that reason. But they are adjusting to living in the apartment complex, he said.
"We get sad. Our apartment doesn't feel like home. … We think about after the year is up at Chaco Apartments, what are we going to do next?" he said.
Derrick, who volunteers with the San Juan County Fire Department and works for the tribe's emergency medical service, said he appreciates the assistance his family received from coworkers and friends.
During today's visit to the former residence, Derrick found his grandmother's clock, which was covered in mud and stuck at the time of 10:20.
"Oh. He found my clock," Shorty said.
"It's a Titanic artifact," Woody said with a chuckle, then recalled his grandmother called him at 10:06 p.m. the night of the flood.
As part of the recovery effort, Trevizo said ALERT members searched for residents' possessions.
"Every day you go, you find something different," he said.
Within hours after the flash flood hit, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye visited the location. Following the president's visit, the Navajo Nation Commission on Emergency Management declared a state of emergency on Aug. 8.
Laberta Woody recalled Begaye telling residents they would receive new homes. Since then, she said she has reached out to the president’s office for updates, to no avail. She said the president needs to fulfill his promise.
Begaye did not respond to a request for comment submitted to his office today.
Delegate Tom Chee, who represents the Shiprock Chapter, was at the chapter house today and visited the family.
Chee agreed with Laberta about the challenges involved in securing a homesite lease and explained he continues to advocate for the flood victims, including communicating with the president.
"It's a very complex issue," Chee said.
The president dedicated a new trailer to Shiprock resident Ina Yazzie, who also lost her home in the flash flood, according to an Oct. 6 press release from his office.
Yazzie was home today and said she continues to search her property for items lost in the flood.
"It's got hot water inside. It's the first time I live in a trailer," she said.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.