Johnny Carr watched as the noisy excavator chomped away pieces of his home southeast of Yelm.
“At least it’s kind of cool,” he said. “Like when you’re a little kid and you stack up blocks to knock them over? It’s kind of the same thing. That’s how I’m trying to look at it.”
In about 40 minutes last week the two-story, nearly 1,500-square-foot house became a pile of bricks, glass, lumber, carpet, insulation and rubble.
Carr, a supply sergeant in the Army National Guard, and his wife, Heather, were forced out of their home in December when the Nisqually River changed course during a storm and cut away about 70 feet of their property.
“There was a gradual bank that went down to the river several feet out from here,” Carr said. “The water never came over the grass, until one night it came over and in two days we just kind of lost it all.”
The couple wasn’t able to collect insurance money while their home was standing, even though they couldn’t live in it. And because the home wasn’t on a floodplain — it was 20 feet above the river level — they weren’t required to buy flood insurance when they bought the house for $215,000 in 2011.
They also are running into snarls with insurance companies because water never touched the house, but county officials deemed the structure unsafe to enter.
So far, Carr said they’ve been able to get only a few hundred dollars for the cost of moving and storing items. In addition, a GoFundMe page has raised about $27,500 in donations for the family.
They’re hoping their attorney can sort out financial details with their mortgage lender, Carr said.
Thurston County got a grant from the state Department of Ecology to pay for demolishing the home. Demolition and debris disposal are expected to cost about $21,000.
The property won’t be suitable for building, but an environmental group or the Nisqually Tribe might be interested in purchasing it, said Mike Kain, planning manager with Resource Stewardship.
During the past decade, there has been only one other house in the county torn down because of a similar situation, he said. It was a home on the Deschutes River a couple of years ago.
“The rivers are unpredictable,” Kain said. “It could happen again.”
With the exception of some large appliances, Carr said the family was able to get most of their items out of the house.
He winced as the big yellow machine picked up pieces of the staircase he spent hours sanding, staining and refurbishing. The couple also recently replaced all of the lighting fixtures and updated the kitchen.
“You can get new stuff later,” Carr said. “But just all of the time I spent doing it. That’s not something I can get back.”
He said the hardest part has been saying goodbye to a home that they loved.
“This is the only home the girls had known,” Carr said of his daughters, ages 3 and 1. “It was just so great. They could run and play in the yard and help Mama with the garden and take care of the animals and everything.”