By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Tim Glover considers himself lucky.
Glover was one of 10 people who, prior to June 13, lived in a beautiful house on the Yellowstone River outside of Gardiner, Montana.
He and seven other Yellowstone National Park employees, along with their families, enjoyed the patio attached to the multi-family home owned by the National Park Service, along with the views it offered.
But on the evening of Monday, June 13, their home fell into the Yellowstone and floated down the river, carrying with it years of memories and thousands of dollars of personal property.
“When we went to bed at night on Sunday, there was no concern or anything, everything looked the same,” Glover told Cowboy State Daily. “The river hadn’t surged yet. First thing in the morning on Monday, when we looked out the window, all the dry space had been taken away. It was within three feet of our porch, our deck.
“Part of our little patio area out there had already been washed away,” he continued. “The earth was unstable. We had a power pole in front of the house that was starting to shake already.”
Glover, who works at Mammoth as a supply technician, knew that the road from Gardiner to Mammoth had been closed, but had been given no other details. He and his neighbors had no inkling that the highway linking their community to their workplace had already fallen partially into the river.
“At about 6:30 in the morning, we started the quick evacuation,” Glover said, “and there was just no warning at all. No phone calls, no nothing. It was just us in the house, one of my neighbors looked out the window and then started banging on the door saying ‘Hey, we’ve got to get out of here.’”
Glover said that within 30 minutes, city staff arrived, made sure that the house was clear and put up “caution” tape.
“Then that started the long, long day of us pretty much just waiting,” Glover said.
Mid-morning on Monday, the residents watched the power line in front of their home go down, which took out the electricity to Mammoth – then the river began tearing away pieces of the building.
And all they could do, Glover said, was watch.
“When the power pole went in at 9:30 in the morning, the house didn’t fall in until like 7 o’clock at night,” said Glover, who has been a seasonal employee in the park for the last four years and had been hired full-time just six weeks earlier.
Glover said he approached two separate officials about whether or not he could go into the house to collect personal belongings, and ultimately decided to take the chance.
“I don’t know exactly what time they had deemed it unsafe, but nobody up there stopped me from going in,” he said. “And I made 5, 6, 7 trips in and out of the house.”
Glover said of the five apartments in the building, all but one family was home the night before disaster struck.
“The family of four downstairs, with the two young daughters, they’re actually visiting family in California right now,” Glover said.
He explained that one of his other neighbors, TJ Britton, was able to reach them.
“TJ got a hold of that family and told them what was happening,” Glover said. “They told him where the key was at, he got into the house. I think he got passports, a lockbox, and a jewelry case and that was it.”
Glover said he had finally left the area after spending much of the day waiting when the house slid into the water and floated away around 7 p.m. Monday.
“We didn’t see it live,” he said. “But I got to see the video of it, and it was one of those things – I didn’t have a lot of years there and I just felt worse for everybody else.
“When they evacuated that morning, and just stood there, the young married couple, it’s like they started letting go,” he continued. “Now I’m seeing a grown man and a woman holding each other crying. And TJ and his wife, TJ’s been there 15 years, they got married eight years ago. Here’s another grown couple crying.”
Glover said that there was an air of disbelief among the residents.
“People didn’t go back into the house like I did,” Glover said, “because they honestly thought they were going to get back in. Like, we might lose the house, it might be structurally unsound, but we’re going to go back in and get our stuff out.”
Glover said although he’d only lived in the house for a little less than three months, it was long enough for him to fall in love with the location.
“It was a beautiful property,” he said. “I’ve done my seasonal stuff here at the park for the last four years, bopped around the little cabins and condos and stuff … so for me to get hired full-time and then get assigned to that house was like a dream come true.”
For other residents, though, losing the house was truly losing their home.
“TJ Britton, he’s lived there for 15 years,” Glover said. “Like, he’s raised kids in that house. His daughter got married out on the patio. He built this big custom driftwood arch that was just beautiful. But by the time we got up in the morning, that was gone already.”
Glover was able to gather most of his personal belongings that had any value, but said that as a “minimalist,” very few of his personal belongings were irreplaceable.
That wasn’t the case for some of his other neighbors.
“The Cannetas lived downstairs,” he said. “They lived 13 years in the Grand Tetons, so they’ve acquired a bunch of stuff. They had a moving truck bring stuff up when they moved up here in January. They lost almost everything.”
Glover said that all of the former residents of the house have found temporary shelter. He and the Cannetas are currently staying at the Youth Conservation Corp camp near Mammoth.
“Everybody was offered park housing, but three of the groups denied it, from my understanding,” said Glover. “They are still living down in Gardiner and Jardine (Montana). But the family of four is still out in California. Their oldest daughter, which I think is four, is really, really struggling with this. So they’re keeping her out there with family, just to help everything settle down out here, and then they’re coming back.”
Several fundraising sites have been launched to help the families displaced by the disaster. A fund for Mike and Katy Canetta has so far raised more than $36,000; a local non-profit has raised more than $56,000 to this point for all the families and individuals who lived there.
Glover said that he hasn’t decided whether or not to accept financial help, as he personally hasn’t lost as much as some of his neighbors.
“I don’t think any of us are to the point now that we’ve actually sat down with pen and paper, and figured out mathematically what’s the value of everything that we lost,” he said. “In all honesty, I went out of my way to not pay attention to that at this point in time.”
What he’s doing now, Glover said, is trying to get back to normal. He said he’s been offered some overtime work in the park, as part of an “all-hands-on-deck” effort to get Yellowstone ready for visitors as soon as possible.
But some of his neighbors are taking some time off – and using that time to search for some of their lost belongings.
“TJ and his wife are two of the ones that are doing that,” Glover said. “They are actually combing up and down the river, finding our stuff everywhere. There’s a suitcase 31 miles up the road that’s TJ’s and Victoria’s that has most of their wedding pictures in it.”
TJ’s wife Victoria posted on Facebook asking for permission from private landowners along the river to search debris piles for personal belongings that were swept away in the flood.
“We have found quite a few things so far & keep hearing about more,” she wrote. “For instance, that is our canoe wrapped up in the tree in Yankee Jim Canyon. We’ve heard of refrigerators & freezers & coolers & many other numerous things laying around. Right now, even pieces of clothing or parts of the house mean so much. If so, please comment, PM, or text one of us to let us know?”
Glover said that he’s been sent photos from other Facebook users when they find debris, and some of those photos show items that belong to him.
“I’m sitting (at a coffee shop in Bozeman) drinking my coffee, I’ve got my computer, and I get a text message,” he said. “In it is a picture of my brand new nightstand sitting in the dirt with the drawer still in it at like mile marker 5.”
Jill Sholly, Superintendent Cam Sholly’s wife, has been keeping in touch with Glover since the flood last week. He said he texted Jill the photo of the nightstand as soon as he received it.
“So I sent her the text, and it’s just like ‘Hey, listen, I just received this picture of my nightstand sitting in the dirt at mile marker 5. I bet everybody in City Brew coffee did not expect to walk in for coffee and see a grown man cry.’”
Glover said he hopes that others who find debris will continue to reach out.
“I don’t care if I get a shoe,” he said. “If I ever have a mantel, it’s going on it. If anyone asks, ‘Why do you have a shoe?’ I’ll say, ‘Because that survived the worst flood that Yellowstone’s ever seen.’”