“We don't know what else to do”

Sue Kraft, Lifestyles Editor
Jim Sailor is shown pulling his grandson Josh across the flooded road at their home east of Devils Lake. The lake has consumed the only access road to the Sailor’s home, creating a number of challenges for the household of six.

The rising waters of Devils Lake have turned life upside down for the Sailor family — and relief is no where in sight.

Julie Sailor said she and husband Jim purchased a home and moved it to St. Michael about 20 years ago. They lived in it for about ten years before the lake reached their front door. They then moved the house to a higher elevation about 10 years ago, but now the lake has consumed the only road leading to their home.

The house, she explained, is located on a west township road connected to the  Woods-Rutten Road, east of the city.

“It's about a mile to the house,” she said, “and about three city blocks are under water.”

Sailor said family members were initially wearing rubber boots to cross the flooded road, but the water became too high in places. They now use a paddleboat to gain access to their home.

“It's interesting on windy days,” she said.

She said high winds cause waves to crash over the side of the boat and sink the vessel, so her husband Jim has started wearing hip waders and pulling the boat safely to the other side when the conditions aren't favorable.

The water reaches the top of his waders in the deepest spots.

There are currently six people living in the home: Jim, Julie, the couple's 10 year-old grandson Josh, their son Jamie, his girlfriend Marla and their child, (Jim and Julie's granddaughter) 18 month-old Brittyn.

Julie said life has changed dramatically for them since the lake has taken their only access road.

“In the morning we have to take along dry clothes,” she said. “And we all have to ride at the same time.”

She said regardless of what time they must work, the adults all travel by boat together in the morning and most evenings. Heavy items, such as dog food and water softener salt, must be carried across when there aren't passengers because of the weight.

She said recently they ran out of propane, which heats the home, and had to purchase a small tank as a temporary fix.

“Hopefully it's enough to run the hot water,” she said.

Increasing frustration

Sailor said the road to their home was badly damaged last year because of the water and officials came up with a temporary solution, but it didn't last long.

“Last year they put some dirt on it to build it up, but the wave action just ate it up,” she said.

Sailor said last winter a large amount of snow was built up on the road and the plow couldn't push it because there were no ditches on either side, just water. In the spring, she noted, all of that snow melted, leaving a muddy mess.

“It was like soup,” she said.

Sailor said they have talked to township officials and others in the county, but haven't received any answers.

“Last fall they told us they would re-route the road to the north,” she said. “They also told us that in early spring.”

Sailor said she hasn't seen any survey work being done and she doesn't know that any progress has been made toward that plan.

“They asked if we could move out for 30 days,” she said, adding that option just wasn't feasible for the family.

“There's six of us – who do we invade?” she asked. “And we have animals.”

She said the flooding waters have already claimed the life of one of their pets, the family dog.

“The waves swept him out in the water,” she said. “There was still ice, so we couldn't go in after him.”

Sailor said she worries for her grandchild and the rest of the family, but they will continue to make the best of this tough situation.

“We don't know what else to do,” she said.