Military Family Loses Their House to a River

By Faye Higbee

Military Family  Loses Their House to a River

Johnny and Heather Carr had a house on 5 acres along the banks of the Nisqually River near Yelm in Thurston County, Washington.  But due to severe erosion and flooding, that house has been declared unsafe, and the family of four can no longer live in it. In essence, they are homeless and having to live with friends.

 military family

Johnny Carr, (left), Heather (right), with daughters Annabelle and Audrey.

Military Family loses everything

Johnny Carr is in the Army National Guard at JBLM – Joint Base Lewis McChord- near -Tacoma, Washington. He reportedly served with them in Afghanistan prior to his current status.

During the summer of 2015 he fought the massive outbreak of forest fires in the West, and in 2014, he helped with the Oso landslide. So he is acquainted with disaster…but when it happened to him it was heartbreaking.

Too much rain

It was an unusually rainy winter this year, and water releases from the nearby dam coupled with an exceptionally rainy night in December caused the Nisqually river to come raging through their yard. They lost about 70 feet of land between December 16 and 18. And chunks of land continue to disappear, though there are no more major storms forecast for the immediate future.

“What I believe is going to happen, and it sounds like it will happen this week, is that we will be paying a mortgage on a pile of rocks and still be homeless.” Johnny Carr

Forced out of their dream home

The Carrs had to move out several weeks ago as the house teetered on the edge of the river. They are staying with a fellow soldier from JBLM. But as of last Tuesday, Thurston County red-tagged their home.

Still paying the mortgage

The red tag says their house is unsafe, and bars them from entering it, although a yellow tag was placed on the home back in December. They are also saddled with a $200,000 mortgage that the bank says still has to be paid due to the house still standing.

“Because if you lost another 5-6 feet it could take the deck and a portion of the house. If somebody was in it they could die.” Thurston County plans examiner Tim Rubert 

Since they were so far away from the river when they bought the house four years ago, they were not required to purchase flood insurance. Now that the river has changed its course, they are without options.

Thurston County is seeking a couple of emergency grants to allow the county to tear down the house before it falls into the river.

As of 7 days ago, they were told that a buyout by the county was not likely, and that because it was red-tagged they could have a lien placed against them for the cost of clean up if the house falls into the river.

They are literally between a rock and a hard place. A fellow soldier started a GoFundMe page for them, but faced with the losses and possibilities of future damages, it could be a long time before they are able to start over again.