Saturday, January 24, 2009

...and the rains came

And came, and came, and kept coming, on top of previous, substantial snowfalls. All that water has to go somewhere...or not. Long story short, on January 8, 2009, my flat was a virtual island, surrounded by water as deep as my knees in places. I feel extremely thankful that the water didn't inundate my apartment building, but it was close; the floor got cold because of the water in the crawl space beneath the floors.This is a panoramic view of one of the streets next to my apartment;the one that runs the other direction was just as bad.

No, one wasn't at risk of drowning or being swept away by the current if one left the building, but it was still a damage-causing nuisance. When a driver would pilot their vehicle through, they either did so with caution and trepidation, often deciding against it and backing out, or they would drive through at breakneck speed, creating not only fantails but also a "wake" that would lap against houses, creating even more damage. I asked that the city close the affected roads to not only potentially save the autos that dared to drive through the knee-deep water, but to prevent any more damage from being inflicted on the houses that were already greatly compromised by the rising waters. The city took a very lackadaisical stance and did nothing save place a single sign. And, oh, the irony...especially when this sign went floating away after a wake was created by a truck out for a joy ride through the flooding.

This was my first experience with flooding, and while I personally didn't lose property, the sense of approaching dread was overwhelming as the waters rose. I can't even begin to imagine how it must feel to have to toss a lifetime of sentimental belongings. There were residences in town that were forced to do just that; sump pumps failed and sandbagging just wasn't adequate in battling the rising waters of nearby creeks, streams, and rivers.

video

Because my blog is primarily about my experiences of riding my bicycle and the things I see while doing so, I'd be remiss in posting this video. I needed a few groceries and so, the only practical way to remedy this was to ride my bicycle through the deep water. I don't own a pair of boots and was reluctant to possibly ruin my beloved Tevas; I donned my thrift shop Nike all-terrain sandals (great in the water), rolled up my pants legs and rode through frigid, "take your breath away" water that had been chilled by copious amounts of snow.

Still, the waters did add a whole new dimension to things, especially at night. It was almost like living in a houseboat...or, at the very least, like having lakefront property. Those affected by the flooding (specifically two areas harder hit than the rest of town, including where I live) were fortunate not to lose power, which meant that the lights at night created an almost magical scene when their echoes reflected in the water. Close enough to the winter holidays, many residents still had their Christmas lights up. One neighbor turned them on, which created a surreal scene which was embellished further by the presence of a shining star above the abode which was reflected in the water. A sight to behold, still I can't help but think that the homeowner was happy to see the waters recede.

And they did, even if it took some time. A week later, I rode my bicycle to the outlying areas and snapped photos of trumpeter swans swimming in what are normally cornfields. Unfortunately, I also saw a literal pile of dead calves, perhaps drowned in the flooding, apparently pending disposal. Tears were shed for the loss of their young lives. I was disheartened to see that they were in plain view of passing school buses. Perhaps this was one of those "necessary" lessons learned by children raised on farms, but it made me very sad to see them just discarded like so much wet carpet or ruined drywall piled in a yard.While I consider this another experience to add to my rich life, I can honestly say that I hope never to experience a flood this closely again. While I count my blessings that it wasn't any worse, my compassion is great for those who have lost their belongings (or worse, the lives of their loved ones and/or entire homes) in a flood. It's amazing to me how easily Mother Nature reminds us that, regardless of humankind's best efforts to prove that this earth belongs to them, there are far greater forces at work than man will ever be capable of replicating.

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