The extreme weather experienced in large parts of Wisconsin July 19 – 20 caused damage to property and trees and knocked power out for thousands of people for several days. Here in Oneida, as the Department of Public Works (DPW), Conservation, Emergency Management, and other departments worked tirelessly to assist in cleanup efforts, many tribal citizens stepped up to assist neighbors, friends, and relatives get through the power outage.
Oneida Nation citizen Carole Liggins is one of many who received assistance from neighbors and friends. Liggins, who also cares for her mother at her home, lost all electrical power to her house on July 20. Power wasn’t restored for nearly 48 hours, and there was also a significant amount of flooding in her basement. “After the storms moved through, we lost power but we figured it would come back on in a matter of hours,” Liggins said. “So my nephew and I cleaned up the yard and waited. Fortunately, I had purchased some lanterns because the power didn’t come back on. The next day we didn’t open the refrigerator because we didn’t want the food to go bad, so I drove to town and got food from a restaurant.”
While her daughter searched for a generator, Liggins decided to contact a close friend to see if she had any drinking water available. “I ended up calling my friend Winnifred (Thomas) to see if she had any 5-gallon containers,” Liggins said. “She gave us a lot of drinking water, and I was also able to give her my frozen meats so she could take them to her mother Pearl McLester’s house because she had room in her freezer. So when I got home we got the water unloaded and we just sat around the rest of the day and read and did some puzzles.”
The next day Liggins still wasn’t certain how she was going to deal with the flooding in her basement. That is until an unexpected hero showed up in her driveway. “That afternoon a truck pulled into my driveway and it was my neighbor, Stephen Webster, checking up on us,” Liggins said. “He asked how we were doing and I told him about the water in the basement. Well, he had his generator with him and he hooked it up and got my sump pump working again. Eventually my basement dried out and that was a big relief.”
“My dad always helped people out and that’s how I am,” Webster said. “Anywhere I could haul the generator up and down our road I did it. I knocked on doors and helped neighbors out who had flooding and just tried to make sure they were good. It’s just the right thing to do. In times like that I always hear stories about how the community steps up and takes care of each other, so I wanted to do my little part. I’m strong enough that I can do my own thing but I know there a lot of people around me who can’t, so I do my best to help out.”
“I think that giving quality people have is a wonderful thing,” Liggins said. “To know or see somebody in need and to step in and help them is an amazing thing. I’m grateful those people are out there. Sometimes you don’t even have to ask, they just stop by. This is what community service really is and these are the actions we should all be taking. Disaster or not, hot weather and cold weather, check on the elders.”
The only weather-related disappointment Liggins expressed was that the local Meals-On-Wheels did not deliver on July 19. “It was so very hot and the decision to not deliver was due to the heat,” Liggins said. “My thoughts on that are most of their people are elders and shut-ins, so why wouldn’t they deliver meals? At the same time they’d be checking to make sure that elder is okay with the heat. The workers are in an air-conditioned vehicle and have to walk up to the house. I was a little disappointed in that aspect of it because I was thinking about all the other elders in the community who don’t have somebody with them.”
While the storms and power outages were certainly an inconvenience for thousands of people, Liggins doesn’t feel they were cause for panic in the community. “I guess if this were a real disaster and everything was totaled, and 90 percent of us were left homeless because of a tornado, then I would expect the tribal government to come in and take steps,” Liggins said. “This was a bad storm and it knocked out electricity. To me it just makes sense to ask your friends for help and help yourself as best you can. I don’t believe the level of this storm was enough for the Oneida Business Committee to take drastic measures. I don’t believe this storm was to that level. Our grandparents have gone through a lot worse heat without air conditioning or electricity. We can survive without it if we have to.”