DEVASTATED– Durham experiences worst flood since 1951

Much of downtowvn Durham was flooded on July 4. Some places reported water as high as four feet in businesses and homes. Photo submitted by Jared Dyck
Much of downtowvn Durham was flooded on July 4. Some places reported water as high as four feet in businesses and homes. Photo submitted by Jared Dyck
While many were enjoying holiday festivities and preparing for a fourth of July filled with fun and relaxations, Durham residents faced a very different reality.

Rainfall over several hours during the night Wednesday night and into the morning on Thursday, caused severe flooding unlike anything Durham has seen since a flood occurred in 1951.

“Most of the water came from Northwest of here. We got about six and a half inches of rainfall here and then up by Roxbury, Gypsum Canyon, and Canton all got about 10 inches up in that area which then came this way,” said Mayor Mike Sorenson.

“It’s very extensive damage. It’s actually mind boggling to have 32 inches of water in our building and that much content in there. It seems like just about everything was affected,” said Wendell Wedel, owner of the Main Street Cafe in Durham.

Many community members as well as those from other communities showed up to help out those most impacted by the flooding.

“We had a bunch of the Mennonites from Morning Star Mennonite Church come out here and help us. They have been feeding people and doing all kinds of things,” said Sorenson.

Some of the help from others came with pros and cons although it was all greatly appreciated.

“We had a crew show up here that just started ripping things out and carrying out. I had no control over it and lots and lots of things got thrown away that I had no control over like perfectly good stools and unopened cans of food. That was sad,” said Wedel.

For the most part, the buildings and homes impacted by the flooding are all cleaned out, and owners are waiting on contractors and estimates now. There are still a few homeowners tearing damaged building materials out and trying to figure out how deep they will have to tear it all out.

Durham residents had to evacuate sections of Durham on Thursday due to the flooding that occurred after a night of storms. Photo submitted by Izzie Klassen
Durham residents had to evacuate sections of Durham on Thursday due to the flooding that occurred after a night of storms. Photo submitted by Izzie Klassen
“Some of them had four foot of water to 8-10 inches in their houses depending on where the houses are sitting at. Pretty much anyone downtown and on the south side of the tracks. The reservoir was pretty high so the water didn’t have anywhere to go until they opened the gates on that,” said Sorenson.

In addition to cleaning up the mess, the town has faced some unexpected obstacles. For example, mail going into and out of Durham is currently on hold because of the flooding.

“The post office has been sealed off. They don’t want any mail going in or out of there until they have their own hazmat team come in there and clear them. Everyone is going nuts about their mail. It’s overwhelming for a lot of people right now,” said Sorenson.

For the most part though, morale seems high for the residents of Durham.

“Life throws all kinds of blows, but you just have to stay on top of them somehow. With the support of the community and everything, we just try to make things work,” said Wedel.

Many residents in Marion County and even beyond all have the same question. What will happen to the famous Main Street Cafe in Durham? Sadly, the answer is most likely that the cafe will not be reopening or at least not under the management of Wedel.

“I don’t have any definite plans made. I have some options, but I am not sure which way I am going to go with all of it. I started out in this business as a sausage maker years ago. If I continue a business, it might just be doing sausage. I can do it by my home on my property. We saved all of the things I need to make it. I could still offer sausage to the public. I wouldn’t be serving it, but I could make it available to the public. I would like to market it through grocery stores,” said Wedel.

Wedel said that he had people show up from Wichita on Friday night to eat at the cafe. They and most people he has spoken to are upset that the cafe will most likely remain closed.

“I am about four months away from being 66 so why would I want to put my retirement money back into it (rebuilding the cafe) when I can just use a portion of it for the sausage making? And this would still keep me occupied and out of trouble. I can still meet people and enjoy what I am doing. The cafe was fun, but it was really stressful at times,” said Wedel.

Volunteers showed up to help Durham residents who had to be evacuated and were stranded due to the flooding. Many provided meals and other assistance to home and business owners as the town worked to clear away the flood damage. Photo submitted by Izzie Klassen
Volunteers showed up to help Durham residents who had to be evacuated and were stranded due to the flooding. Many provided meals and other assistance to home and business owners as the town worked to clear away the flood damage. Photo submitted by Izzie Klassen
Wedel is open to someone buying the cafe and taking over it. He had just put new roofs on the building and LED lighting as well as other upgrades that he would hate to have go to waste if someone could come in and rebuild the rest of the buildings.

“Somebody said they want to start a Go Fund Me for me to help recover some of my losses. I figure if I get a little that is fine and I can use some of it onto a new business. I’m going to turn the page and start another chapter. We want to keep in touch with the community. We love people,” said Wedel.

There have been mentions from multiple sources about Go Fund Me accounts being started, but nothing has been completely set up at press time. For those who would like to help, there are a few options.

Morning Star Mennonite Church in Durham has been providing meals and other assistance to home owners. You can contact them to donate funds or find out other ways to help them out. Another option is to contact the Durham Community Association.

2nd Saturday to Serve in Hillsboro is also planning on helping out. They will be meeting in Durham on Saturday morning to help out. The location and details are still being worked out so check out our website, the 2S2S Facebook page or call Krista Heinrichs later in the week to find out the final plan. Krista can be reached at 620-877-0638.

Monetary donations are also being accepted by 2S2S for Durham flood relief efforts.