Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dealing with Minor Disasters

I've managed pretty well on my own for the last few months, with some complications, but last night was too much for any one person.

For the third time, our basement area took on water. The first two were bad enough, but this was the result of a flash flood, with more than two inches of rain an hour. This morning, you can see the "water line" of debris around the lower level of the house, ranging from four to ten inches. It might be a bit deeper in other spots, but I wasn't going to measure with a ruler.

I spent the entire night using a wet/dry shop vac to remove water from the semi-finished living area of the basement. That's where we have stored boxes of our belongings and large items — like a computer, an entertainment center, my CD/DVD collections, etc. Plus, it is where my books and writings are. My writings include my journals from fourth grade until now. Photo albums, yearbooks, and holiday decorations are all in the basement. Our important documents, are there, too.

Because I've had either a cold or flu and now have bronchitis, I'm not in the best physical shape. I've lost five pounds in three weeks. Yet, there I was, trying my best to move boxes and remove water.

In the end, I couldn't stop all the water and I was in no shape to move large boxes up to the first floor. I tried — and ended up spilling the boxes I did lift.

This wasn't just our house. A nearby street buckled and washed away in sections. A bridge flooded, with people stuck in cars. Thankfully, the local rescue teams were able to retrieve people from the bridge.

I've never seen water like this. You can't stop water from washing away the driveway (which it did) or carrying your garbage can a few hundred yards from the house. Even a wooden walkway that connects our driveway to our backyard washed out of place and struck the house.

This was too much for any one person. I don't care if you are disabled or not, one person cannot handle a flood alone. The shop vac cannot remove that much water and few people can move wet boxes with ease. Trust me, wet boxes fall apart when lifted. I had to call my wife and begged her to take some family leave from work to come out and help me.

I'm overwhelmed with cleanup while also trying to do my job at the university. I'd already lost two weeks to illness before the flooding.

The house will need some serious repairs. We knew some problems would have to be fixed over time. Now, we don't have that time. The driveway has to be replaced, a tree removed, a bulging basement wall repaired, drain pipes replaced, and on and on. If I wasn't already sick from bronchitis, I'd feel sick just looking at the "to-do" list for the home repairs.

During the night, I forgot my keys during one of the water removal cycles. I had to bust in a door, breaking the door jam. My shoulder still hurts. It will be a cheap repair to the door, but I don't think my body will recover quickly. I was standing in two inches of water, shoes and socks soaking wet, and worried about making sure I unplugged the shop vac without getting electrocuted. There is a point at which you can't use an electric device in water and that was the point at which I found myself locked in the shop area.

We don't have flood insurance, yet, but I know we'll be getting it. We live on a hill, out of any flood zone, but clearly that doesn't matter.

My wife will be here tonight. We can start developing a recovery plan. I'm exhausted, though. I'd like to think I could have done more on my own, but sometimes it isn't about being disabled or limited in some way. There are times when nature is simply too much for any person alone.

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