Wave of Copper Country residents ‘get into fight’

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette A volunteer group from Bethany Baptist Church cleans mud from a yard on B Avenue in Hubbell Wednesday night. Volunteers continued to contribute at sites in Hubbell, Lake Linden, Stanton Township and elsewhere.

STANTON TOWNSHIP — On Sunday, the water rushing past Shelby Peltier’s house on Coles Creek Road was nearly up to the top of her back deck.

It left them with 8 feet of water in the basement, knocking out the refrigerator, freezer, hot-water heater and furnace, and damaging her husband’s tool collection.

“It’s complete and total devastation,” she said. “It’s like something you’d see on TV … People have come out in droves to help.”

They did for her Wednesday. And her neighbors. And seemingly everywhere in the Copper Country where flood damage remains.

Next door, volunteers were mucking up the basement of Laura Bianucci’s house, dumping watery loads in wheelbarrows, which were unloaded behind the house.

Bianucci’s water system stopped working, forcing her to turn off her electricity. She’s staying with a family friend in the meantime.

“There’s people showing up I’ve never met, never seen in my entire life, asking to help every minute, every second,” she said. “It just brings goosebumps thinking of how everyone’s come together.”

Volunteers in the Coles Creek area Wednesday included family friends, Evangel Baptist Church and Crossfit Haakapeliitta.

Crossfit owner Micah Stipech said they had spent a day or so depressed by the pictures they were seeing, before several of the younger kids said “We need to do something.”

“We really wanted to just get into the fight somewhere, and we were looking for someone to give us a location.”

Before the volunteer drive became centralized, they were scrambling for information. First, they responded to an address given to them by someone in Ripley. Now, they’re getting recommendations from the volunteer center on where to join the effort.

Stipech said they’ll keep turning out as long as it’s needed.

“Only a small group has been our hockey team or our gym,” he said. “There’s been people that showed up out of the woodwork I never met before.

“That’s one of the great things about the Copper Country. Wherever it’s needed, we plan to help until the job’s done.”

In Hubbell, volunteers showed up at the Hubbell Fire Hall Wednesday, where there was an assortment of gloves and tools for volunteers who needed them.

Meals had also been donated for the past several days for volunteers or people in need, said Carmen St. Peter of the Hubbell Fire Department Auxiliary. The back room of the Fire Hall had numerous cases of water, which were going to residents of the 50 or so Hubbell households that could not use their water.

There had been about 120 people Wednesday around 6:30 p.m. and 160 on Tuesday, St. Peter said.

“It’s been amazing,” she said. “A lot of good people out there, for sure.”

Volunteers from Bethany Baptist Church were filling wheelbarrows with mud. Pastor Brian Knight said they plan to show up several more times, wherever they need to go.

“It’s a community thing,” he said. “It’s part of what we do. We would normally have Wednesday night service at the church, and this is a far more important thing under the circumstances.”

John and Scarlet Berry were cleaning mud from their front lawn in Lake Linden. An assortment of items from their basement remained on the lawn.

Thanks to volunteers, it was a far cry from the situation Sunday, when they were surrounded on three sides of the house by water. The water reached one step shy of spilling from the 7.5-foot-high basement into the main house.

“Our lightbulbs were caked with mud,” Scarlet Berry said.

Volunteers spent six-and-a-half hours removing items and mucking out the basement, John Berry said.

At least 20 people had helped at the house, Scarlet said, representing a panoply of groups: Evangel Baptist Church, the Hubbell Fire Department, the volunteer help line, Michigan Technological University, and people from Marquette and Ontonagon.

“A lady from Mohawk brought three teenagers because she heard we needed help,” she said.

The water company made sure they had drinkable water until service was restored, John said. The Lake Linden and Laurium Fire Departments aided them Sunday, and Hubbell Fire Department said it would pick up muck and other items from the curb that they needed to remove.

At the Houghton County Historical Society, where John Berry volunteers, volunteers have come from as far as Marquette to pitch in.

“We were very fortunate,” Scarlet said. “We kept the house. It’s a mess out here, but we were very lucky.”