The home of Marty Evanson sustained extensive damage over the last several days as a result of flooding along West Anchorage Lane in Fox Lake on Thursday, July 20, 2017.
Like many of his neighbors on the Chain O’ Lakes, Marty Evanson has been through floods more times than he can count.
But his 9-year-old granddaughter, who lives with Evanson and his wife, didn’t expect to see her bedroom floor under water again this year. When she did, she dissolved into tears.
The water came despite a wall of sand five bags high encircling the house. The Fox Lake seeped in, despite a new sump pit Evanson had jack-hammered through the concrete floor slab. Even the six pumps pushing water out from inside and outside the house weren’t enough to keep up.
After fighting another losing battle with the elements, Evanson said, "I feel sick to my stomach."
Since 1989, Evanson has lived across the street from a channel, and within a stone’s throw of the lake itself. He started worrying after heavy rains last week, when he saw water building up in the ditches. It crept under his privacy fence, across the lawn and seeped under the heavy-duty plastic wrap around the sand bags.
At 3 a.m. on July 14, Evanson’s wife woke him up and when he swung his legs out of bed, he found himself standing in a couple inches of water.
"We never thought it would come up as fast as it did," he said.
At least that was an improvement from the last flood, when the water crept 10 inches up his walls.
After that, Evanson gutted his house, taking out the floors, walls and insulation. He found mold of many colors — black, green and even pink. He replaced the electrical, plumbing and heating systems. He and his family lived in a travel trailer on the driveway for two years until the job was done.
He vowed to make the house flood-proof with the water pumps and sand fortifications, and burned through four pumps, but found out the pumps couldn’t keep up.
With each flood, Evanson said he feels his age a little more. Now 57, he underwent surgery after suffering a heart attack in 2015, and kept stacking sandbags despite the scar on his chest he calls a "zipper."
Continuing the bad luck streak, Evanson’s wife slipped on rocks and skinned her arm, and when his brother moved his motorcycle out of the house, he fell and broke his hip and femur.
Despite all that, Evanson, who grew up behind a marina in Fox Lake and helped a wheelchair-bound neighbor get through floods as a kid, likes where he lives. He sails his Sunfish and fishes on his pontoon boat every day, and he wants to stay. He has flood insurance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, though he said collecting last time around was a "fiasco."
The house is located in the Meyers Bayview Terrace subdivision just off Route 12 in downtown Fox Lake, where small cottages occasionally can still be had for less than six figures. One neighboring house had a walk-through scheduled during the flood, Evanson said. The prospective buyers said they loved the house, but took a look at the approaching waters and walked away.
Almost all of his neighbors have left during the flood, and the Evansons are staying temporarily at a friend’s house. Evanson, a union insulator by trade who was forced by the housing bust to get a factory job making medical equipment, is weighing his options. Next time, he says, he’ll have to jack his house up five cinder blocks high to stay dry.
The water began receding from his yard Thursday evening, and his two grown sons came to begin cutting out wet drywall. His backyard swimming pool remained crystal clear, despite the brown lake water surrounding it. But the renewed flood threat because of Friday rains means the fight isn’t over.
"Something’s got to get better," he said. "I don’t want to go anywhere. This is where my heart is. This is my home."