TOME — Six people and five dogs are struggling to stay one step ahead of homelessness after their Tomé home was rendered uninhabitable from last month’s flooding.
July 5 was a typical Thursday for the Olguin family. Michele Olguin had gotten home from work and was fixing something to eat.
“It started to hail and I thought about moving my car,” Michele said. “But when I looked out, water was already above the bottom of the car door.”
Not long after, water began coming in the front door and backing up into the bathtub and toilet.
“We were under attack,” said Shaelyn, her 12-year-old daughter.
As the rain poured down, water flooded into the 1.11 acre piece of property — coming from the west, off La Ladera Road in front of the house, and from the llano to the east.
The property is owned by Michele’s mother, Theresa “Terri” Olguin, who lost her husband about four years ago.
“The house is about 100 years old. This property belonged to my husband’s great-grandparents, so it’s been here for a while,” Theresa said.
Water has encroached onto the property other times, she said, but never to this extent.
“The road is too high; there’s no drainage,” she said, pointing to the road which is visibly higher than the Olguin’s yard.
As the water continued to rise and come into the house, Michele, and her daughters, Shaelyn and Angel, 8, and Theresa and her two sons, Alex and Benny, weren’t sure what to do.
The water outside was about 4-feet deep, mid-thigh on Michele and a good 2 feet inside.
During the flood, Theresa called 911, looking for help and advice.
“They said they were working on it. No one stopped to see if anyone was injured or needed help,” she said. “I started packing things in a pillowcase. I didn’t know what else to do, if we could even get out.”
Eventually, the rain stopped and the water evaporated, but what was left behind was a seriously damaged house and inoperable car.
“The water came up over the seats of my car. It was ruined. I lost my job because I couldn’t get to work,” Michele said.
The weekend after the flood, representatives with the American Red Cross came through the area to evaluate properties and declared the Olguin’s home a disaster.
“It’s a total loss, but ... I don’t know where to start. I’ve asked and asked but there isn’t anything to help us,” Theresa said.
Because the property is so old, she said it was uninsurable. While it probably isn’t the safest or healthiest place for her family, it’s all they have right now.
The family has pulled up the flooring that was soaked by the water but the smell of mold permeates the house. The interior plaster in the living room has cracked and given way at the bottom of one wall. The adobe bricks inside have returned to the loose dirt they once were and begun seeping out.
The Red Cross put the family up in a hotel for three days, and MidWest CAP for four more, but now they are relying on friends and families, sleeping on couches and floors.
“It’s hard to take care of my daughter; she just had back surgery a few weeks ago,” Michele said.
Trying to find assistance has proven to be an endless loop, Theresa said — calls to Red Cross are referred to FEMA, who suggested they call HUD, who suggested they call the Red Cross.
“I don’t even know where to begin. The well is contaminated and the septic is ruined,” Theresa said. “The boys don’t want to leave the house, and stay here even though they really shouldn’t. It’s their dad’s home and they want to keep what little we have left.”
A neighbor set up a GoFundMe site for the family — gofundme.com/help-the-olguin039s-build-a-new-home.
“We have searched and searched for help,” Michele said. “I’m not sure there is anything for us.”
As thunder rumbles softly and dark clouds build over the llano, Theresa sighs.
“If it happens again, I don’t know if this house will stand.”