RUPERT — Wayne Schwendiman was sleeping at his 86-year-old mother’s house on Feb. 21 when he was jolted awake at 4 a.m. by a neighbor.
Floodwater swept through livestock pens and septic systems and had already infiltrated a corner of the attached garage at 325 N. Meridian Road.
Schwendiman, an emergency medical technician, called the sheriff’s dispatch and requested dozens of pallets of sandbags to place around the home.
A semi-load of sand and dozens of volunteers working for days could not save his mother’s home. The water collapsed walls in the basement and destroyed a load-bearing wall for the main floor, rendering Betty Schwendiman’s home uninhabitable.
“I was trying to get mom’s stuff out and get her away from here so she didn’t have to watch it,” Wayne said.
He waited until his mother dressed before turning off the power to the house.
“My first thoughts were Wayne had been called to work early,” said Betty, who fought to understand what was happening as she was awakened that morning. “Then I started grabbing for things that I’d need right away.”
Her little dog, Tiny, knew something was wrong and huddled in her kennel.
Betty and Tiny waited in a pickup outside while her own car, tucked inside the garage, flooded. After the power was shut off, there was no way to open the garage door.
Wayne, clad in hiking boots, placed sandbags around the house. But by 6 a.m. the basement had filled with water. His mother’s belongings on the lower level were all lost. Soon, the water was seeping into the main floor.
The muddy, waist-deep water covered the sandbags and no one could enter the property without wading boots. Community members brought boots for the family as they continued to feverishly battle the rising water.
“Things float that you didn’t know could float,” said Amber Andersen, Betty’s granddaughter. A full-sized freezer full of beef bobbed in the water and was guided out to a tractor to be moved off the property.
People don’t realize the power of water, said Delinda Schwendiman, Wayne’s wife.
Dozens of volunteers brought tractors, pumps, trailers to move furniture from the main floor and offered temporary storage to the family.
People who had connections to the family or just wanted to help came from all over, Delinda said.
Day after day the same people continued to show up, she said. “You know they had their own lives,” but they set them aside to help.
No plan B
Wayne and Delinda moved into his mother’s home a couple of years ago to help care for her.
Betty and her late husband, Alan, bought the red brick home that sits on nearly five acres in 1966. They raised their seven children there, and it became a gathering spot for family.
Family members would pitch tents in the fruit orchard and bring camp trailers as they gathered for reunions.
“Everybody loved to come to grandma’s house,” Amber said.
The family continued to pump a remaining three feet of water from the basement Friday, a requirement before the inspector will enter the house, most likely to condemn it.
Tears formed on the corner of Betty’s eyes as she sat on the porch of a home she loves and can no longer enter.
“I don’t know what to think,” she said.
It is the most painful event she has endured.
“It’s really hard to face this tragedy at her age,” Delinda said.
Betty said she’s never filed a claim on the homeowner’s insurance policy that had been on the home since she and her husband bought it.
The insurance will not cover the damage.
The Schwendimans don’t know what will happen next. It will take another few days before all the water is out of the basement.
Betty, Wayne and Delinda are now living with Delinda’s parents in Burley.
“Plan A is to stay where we are for now,” Delinda said. “We’ve got no plan B. None of us have the money to start over.”