Kayaking Through Main Street

Trembling from being hot and cold at the same time, Doug Gubbels was confused and scared for his life. He crawled into the shower and turned the heat up to the max. Then, after Gubbels puked up everything he had, his nightmare was over.

It didn’t take him long to figure out how this strange sickness had occurred. 

“I thought since Fremont was an island due to the floods, that maybe the Runza beef I ate was bad, but nope. The chemicals I had touched got absorbed by my skin,” he said.

Gubbels, the owner of Snowy River Ironworks in Fremont, was not wearing gloves while he was evacuating from his welding shop, and when he started grabbing tools and things to move from the water, the chemicals in the water crept into his skin and made him ill.

On March 15, he was working in his shop when he noticed his feet were getting cold. He looked down and saw water flowing all around him. He quickly sprung to action and moved all of his electrical equipment to areas that would remain dry. 

“I had a few words, but they can’t be repeated here,” Gubbels said. “I was scared, but at the same time, grateful for what I had come out with. I didn’t get it as bad as other people.”

Gubbels evacuated his shop in his forklift. When he arrived home, he realized he had forgotten to turn off the electricity in his shop. 

He knew he had to return immediately but also knew his forklift wouldn’t do well in 33-inch waters. So, he drove to Walmart and bought himself a kayak for the unpleasant journey ahead.

As soon as he reached the shop, he paddled through the side door and scanned everything once again to make sure everything was safe. He grabbed some supplies and salvaged a 5-gallon gasoline tank that was upside down and clearly hazardous.  

The scene when Gubbels arrived on March 15, 2019. He was able to repair his shop and still does business from here.
Photo provided by Doug Gubbels

After Gubbels went back home and experienced his sickness, the next day was 24/7 cleanup. 

The shop was not badly damaged, and Gubbels was still able to weld. He continues to create artwork, fences and other sorts of things clients ask of him. Recovery is slow, but work drives him.

Gubbels discussed his interactions with FEMA as well. 

“When I went online to find out how they might help me, I found nothing. It was easier to apply for a job than it was to get help from them,” he said.

Gubbels turns 63 next week, and he’s confident in future business endeavors.

“I can handle what I lost out of my pocket, and that’s good enough for me,” he said.

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