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Manhattan community rallies together during flood cleanup

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Mar 08 2014 03:58:27 PM MST
Updated On: Mar 08 2014 04:01:54 PM MST
MANHATTAN, Mont. -

Floodwater in downtown Manhattan started Thursday night, quickly flooding multiple blocks of Main Street and the adjacent park with up to three feet of water on the street, and up to ten feet in basements.

Emergency crews got to work on Friday morning, using nine pumps to divert up to 12,000 gallons of water per minute, and finally had the street cleared by about 8 p.m.

On Saturday morning, Manhattan business owners could finally access their buildings, many of which had basements completely flooded.

"Amazement, shock, disbelief, would be what everybody initially thought," explained Doug Hamilton, who came to help his brother clear out his office after Friday's flooding.

Hamilton said nobody could have prepared for this, explaining "no one was even remotely concerned that Manhattan would flood."

But now, the community is rallying together to clear out and salvage what they can.

"We knew there was going to be a lot of cleanup and mess. So when we showed up, there were probably over 30 friends, clients, residents of Manhattan that were already here helping," he said.

And as the water in Main Street, Manhattan goes down, peoples' spirits are clearly coming up. Business owners explained it's easy to find the silver lining in this situation as so many community members have come out to help them clean up their businesses after the flood.

"It's a very bright day for us," said Deb Wheaton, owner of Gluten Free Prairie, a new bakery in town.

NBC Montana was there to see her building on Friday, completely flooded.

"We were just filled with despair when we thought it was a total loss," Wheaton said.

But on Saturday, volunteers helped her family pump water out of the basement. and she learned much of her expensive equipment can be salvaged.

"It's pretty amazing," she said. "It tells you when people can rally together, it's just the human spirit and what's possible."

Doug said the flood is a setback, but also a reminder of why he is a part of this community.

"[The volunteers] just showed up," he said. "Nobody asked them. They were here, they had trucks, they had trailers, they had skid steers. It was awesome."

And for Deb, a reminder that life is too short to be concerned about the future.

"I'm not worried about it," she said. "I'm going to live in this moment."

The Manhattan Bible Church has also not recovered from the flood.
Flood damage forced them to cancel services this weekend.
The church had to throw away all of carpeting in the basement.
Thankfully, most of the belongings in the basement were salvaged, but that is what is taking up space in the main sanctuary.
Pastor Randy Jones is encouraging their members to help out with the clean up efforts on Sunday instead of attending worship service.

"We won't be having services on Sunday," Jones said. "We emailed our folk and told them to worship wherever and then to help out whoever needs help with flood issues."

While community volunteers saved the day on Saturday, it is unclear at this point what government assistance Manhattan will receive.

If you would like to help out, you can give to the Manhattan Flood Benefit Fund set up at any Manhattan Bank branch.