Family Forced to Demolish New House After Nearby River Migrated Onto "Dream Property"

Jamie Bichelman - Author

Dec. 7 2023, Published 12:47 p.m. ET

Three screenshots from TikTok video showing home near Pullyap river being demolished
Source: frankieskeeper/TikTok

Just five weeks after the Pelley family moved into their dream home in Washington state, a disastrous flood from the Puyallup River caused such a massive degree of issues that Pierce County officials declared the home needed to be demolished. Shauna and Kevin Pelley were then left without a home.

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The link between climate change and massive flooding around the U.S. is strong, from extreme weather in Hawaii to eight of the worst Puyallup River floods over the last 20 years, per Northwest Public Broadcasting.

A river described as powerful enough to move anything in its path showed its might, as the couple told NBC affiliate KING 5 that the river, which was once 100 feet away from their home, redirected itself west from its normal north-south flow, and thus into the foundation of the couple's dream home.

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When not destructive, the idyllic Puyallup River resides at the foothills of Mount Rainier and extends through cities along the way to the Puget Sound
Source: iStock

Puyallup River migration forced a family to demolish their new house.

Shauna Pelley distressingly documented her home just before it was demolished, and later being destroyed by construction vehicles, in a series of TikTok videos posted in early December 2023.

On one of her videos, a former resident of the same house commented their fond memories of "acres of woods between home and river" when they lived there — and the profound lack of support from Pierce County became increasingly evident with each passing minute.

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In her first TikTok video, Shauna explained that just five weeks into living in the dream home, the Puyallup River rose 20 feet and then extended onto their property. "We used to have a backyard," she tells viewers, before panning to the river beside the edge of the house.

She then shared a few more videos chronicling construction workers tearing down her dream home, explaining to viewers how heartbroken she was. She also posted a FAQ video on TikTok responding to commenters' questions about what happened.

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Kevin told KING 5 that neither homeowner’s insurance nor flood insurance helped them recoup any funds. In Shauna's first video, she explains the loophole that negated the catastrophic event not being covered by insurance or Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

They were also told by county officials that relocating the house elsewhere on the property wasn't an option, leaving them with no funds and no Plan B.

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The Pelleys aren't the first to deal with the devastation accompanying the Puyallup River flooding.

In January 2009, several regions from Washington to Oregon were impacted by severe weather events, including snow and rainfall, flooding and mudslides, and an avalanche for good measure, per DeseretNews.

At that time, the Puyallup River caused up to 2.5 feet of flooding. As residents worked to pump out the water from their home, they indicated it wasn't the first time having to do so.

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Puyallup River flooding at the Wheel In Mobile Park in 2009 left nearly two feet of flooding that affected several area homes
Source: Getty Images

The Pierce County website documented catastrophic flooding events dating back to the 1800s. Pre-1850s and pre-settlement of the area, the migration patters of the river were of lesser concern as people and property didn't necessarily inhabit the area, to that point.

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Devastating flooding as early as 1906 led to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to recommend diversion strategies a year later, followed by flood control measures in the decades thereafter. Prior to more advanced diversion and flood mitigation techniques, disastrous flooding wasn't unusual; that they are once more commonplace speaks to the strong connection between increased flooding events and accelerated climate change, as Green Matters has reported on multiple occasions.

Despite the beauty, there are disadvantages of living near a river.

The stunning views at sunrise and sunset above a body of water certainly put any sound machine to shame. Though, as the John B. Wright insurance agency explains, flooding can damage a home "beyond repair".

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A home in Illinois is surrounded by flood from the Mississippi River in May 2023
Source: Getty Images

Though the Pelleys seemingly did everything right by purchasing homeowners insurance and flood insurance, their extraordinary circumstances deserve further investigation. Insurance policies, as noted by the Wright agency, are made to assist residents in devastating incidents such as those caused by Mother Nature. When these policies fail to protect residents as intended, things become dire.

Wildlife interference with homes can range from cute to life-threatening; for every "bear in the swimming pool" video there may be just as many dangerous insects that collect near bodies of water that carry dangerous diseases, as well as predators who may attack family companion animals.

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