HAILEY — Frank Salvoni hasn’t had much sleep the past week, and he’s not alone.
The same could be said for many of his neighbors in the Della View subdivision in Hailey. They’ve been fending off rising waters from overtaking their homes ever since the Big Wood River crested its banks May 8. A few days later, 40 houses in the subdivision — including Salvoni’s home — were under a mandatory evacuation.
“We were on the back deck and we saw the level coming up,” Salvoni said. “We said ‘Oh, there is no way it will get to this point.’ Then the sandbags started flying and people started showing up. The first couple of days were really surreal because you didn’t expect it.”
The water was receding Tuesday because of cooler weather, and Salvoni has since returned to his home. But his home lacks power, hot water and heat.
His wife and children are staying at a home in Elkhorn. Salvoni stayed behind to keep the floodwater from damaging his home and to prepare for the next onslaught of water.
The National Weather Service predicts flooding to peak between May 28 and June 9 when warm temperatures return. The water is receding for now, but the snowmelt is inevitable.
“They keep saying the worse is yet to come,” Salvoni said. “So it will be interesting.”
Salvoni, who’s lived in Hailey for six years, said he’s never seen flooding like this before. He knew there was a potential for flooding, but he had no idea just how fast the water would rise.
Salvoni wasn’t doing much work Wednesday besides making sure his generators had fuel. His generators power four pumps in the crawl space under his home. Two other pumps are keeping groundwater at bay. He estimated nearly 1,400 sandbags help protect his home.
“The real problem is the ground water,” he said. “It creeps up really quickly. You wouldn’t expect it.”
Carol Brown, Hailey’s public information officer, was able to drive around War Eagle Drive Tuesday to survey the water. A couple days earlier, she would not have attempted the drive. The rushing water would have been to up to the truck’s floorboards. As her truck sliced through the flowing water that completely covered the road, the tires bumped along the silt and gravel washed over the road below. Brown passed by an entrance to the Draper Wood River Preserve. The path leading into the preserve was now a sweeping river.
“Residents have been in a flood fight for seven days trying to protect their homes 24/7,” Brown said.
On May 8, the Big Wood River rose above its banks at 7.8 feet at a flow of 5,950 cubic feet per second. In 2006, the waters reached 7.84 feet and in 1983 they topped out at 7.83 feet.
Ed and Carmen Northen moved to Hailey in 2004 and lived in their home on Cedar Street West when the Big Wood River flooded in 2006. The water never reached their home in 2006. Ed took some precautions but was caught off guard.
“My wife and I were helping to fill sandbags and we came home and it had reached our driveway,” Ed said. “The river this year behaved significantly different than it did in 2006. That was definitely a surprise and it was very stressful.”
The Northens have about 1,000 sandbags around their home and 18 inches of water in the crawl space of their home.
“We are personally fortunate that our power is not shut off yet,” Ed said. “I had to go under the house three times for our sump pumps. I literally had to put my head underwater.”
There were times when the sandbag walls would collapse and Ed wondered if they would be able to hold back the water. Fortunately, many people helped the Northens protect their home.
“Everybody has been really good,” he said. “The fire department has been exceptional and just the community coming together. I’m always the one helping and this is the first time I’ve been on the receiving end. It’s humbling.”