Dec. 31--Clean, still water in Manard Bayou displays mirror images of homes along its banks.
"Manard Bayou has returned to normal," said Dorian Steeber, who owns two of those homes. "It's crystal clear, clean and gorgeous. It's just the way we remember it."
However, seven months after late May floods covered the neighborhoods, few residents live in those homes.
Flood recovery around Fort Gibson has been slow. But residents remain determined to come back.
Rodger Martinez said he and his family have not returned to the bayou home where they had lived since 2007.
Martinez said flood water came up 86 inches above ground, covering the doors.
"And it sat that way for about 10 days," he said.
We gutted it, completely down to the studs," he said, adding that he had flood insurance. FEMA paid $200 to pump the septic tank.
On Friday, contractors installed foam board insulation on Martinez' house.
"Right now, I'd say we're about 40 percent done," he said.
Steeber said he's working on his two houses. He and his wife converted a spare room in one house into a studio apartment.
They live in that spare room.
"We've learned to be good cooks on hot plates and toaster ovens," he said.
Carla Steeber, his wife, said "and our fire pit."
Dorian Steeber said they are working to finish one house so they can use rental income to fix the other. He said he expects the first house to be finished in six to eight weeks.
"I already have an ad on this house," Steeber said. "I don't mind people seeing what we're doing. It's going to be totally new."
He said he has all the Sheetrock up in one house and is having kitchen cabinets installed.
"It's one of the biggest expenses we've had to deal with," he said. "We decided we'd put all new windows in this house."
He said others in his neighborhood are at different stages of recovery.
"One neighbor already has moved back in," he said. "Others are tearing their house down."
Muskogee County District 1 Commissioner Ken Doke said some residents who had flood insurance have already rebuilt.
"A lot are in the process of rebuilding," Doke said.
Some were not able to rebuild.
"There are a number of homes, I know, in the Fort Gibson area that have been abandoned," Doke said. "Others have been put back together."
He said the county and affected communities must make public infrastructure repairs. Some communities are waiting on Federal Emergency Management Agency hazard mitigation grants to fix damaged sewer and water treatment plants, as well as improve flood-prone areas.
However, Fort Gibson Mayor Michael Sharpe said the town's water and sewer plants and systems are in pretty good shape.
"Now, all we're doing is normal everyday maintenance to them," he said, adding that flood damage was repaired fairly quickly.
The community continues to respond, particularly through the Muskogee County Disaster Recovery Committee, he said. Doke said the committee is open to donations and offers to help.
Steeber said flood recovery taught him the difference between happiness and joy.
"I was happy before," he said. "But now we have this inner joy that doesn't come from any of this. This has all been taken away, so what's left? What's left is the important things -- your family, your relationship with God."
You can help
--To offer help or donate supplies or money for continued flood recovery, go to muskogeecountydisasterrecovery.org.
If you need help
--If you need assistance recovering from the flood go to muskogeecountydisasterrecovery.org.
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